Lloyd Dunn’s nula.cc project has been expanding like a red giant, with sound, art and essays appearing (and occasionally disappearing) to form a grand colossus. Meanwhile, Amsterdam’s multi-faceted Staalplaat imprint continues to grow, although at a slower pace than in the 90s, when it seemed another Muslimgauze album or generous dark industrial compilation was always around the corner. The two now join forces for a sublime 7″ that pairs, as one might expect from the title, the sounds of cicadas and bells.
This has been a great year for cicadas, if one can overlook the fact that they rest underground for 17 years, only to emerge, mate and die. In fact, this is the third cicada release we’ve covered in seven months, on the heels of Ben Ceretan’s Cicada Waves and Fuzzy Panda Recording Company’s compilation Tymbal. Dunn’s release is much calmer than the latter and purer than the former, in that it involves no music at all, save for the tymbals and wings of the Lake Lisi cicadas. To some, the sound is intrusive; to others, lulling. Hearing it in this context, one becomes aware of its ambient properties, much in the same way as Tymbal exposes its similarity to drone. What seems like a constant collage becomes a shield of soft undulations, akin to the barely-moving sine waves of minimal ambience, with the greatest variations toward the end. Side A is sure to become a DJ’s tool, a soft bridge between tracks or a texture to add to lighter moments.
In contrast, “Bells” is both field recording and musical piece. The sounds of the forest are apparent as the bells of the Transfiguration Cathedral of the Spaso-Efimeyev Monastery in Suzdal, Russian Federation begin to chime. And oh, what beautiful harmonies they make! Someone had to compose and program this piece, as it arrives fully formed, an invitation to dance, yielding a celebratory tone to match that of a wedding, or Easter, or any manner of festival. The lower register sounds a consistent rhythm, while the upper engages in a playful frolic up and down the scale, suggesting a bell choir. At the very end, single tolls, returning to the start; the fluttering of wings like applause; and a happy family in passing. A sermon is barely needed when the birds and bells cry, “Rejoice!”
Considering the depth of the nula.cc catalog and the aural and tactile allure of vinyl, we hope this collaboration will continue as a series. These recordings are a joy to hear, and an even greater pleasure to own. Congratulations to both imprints on another fine release! (Richard Allen)