We last heard from Ian Wellman mid-pandemic, with the dour yet lovely On the Darkest Day, You took My Hand and Swore It Will Be Okay. During that era, we wondered if Wellman really believed in “the light at the end of the tunnel.” On Sedge, we realize that he does.
Sedge is the reflection of a long-dreamt of journey to New Mexico’s Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to experience the sandhill crane migrations. The densest flocks number up to 15,000. So. Many. Birds. Wellman records the birds from dawn until dusk, capturing the ebb and flow of the flock, while capturing noteworthy juxtapositions along the way.
As the flock awakens, “Dawn” grows steadily louder, the types of calls growing in variety and culminating in honks. During “Flights,” one can pinpoint various vocalizations: the short, the long, the high- and low-pitched, the gargling and the clear. At certain points, one can hear other birds in the background as well, impressively unperturbed. On “Machines,” the human element becomes the intrusion: the passing of distant cars and the work of nearby construction vehicles. Hearing these sounds, one is more impressed at the thought that they do not dominate the other recordings; yet one is also reminded that nature unfolds on the outskirts of civilization, or vice versa.
“Wind” is the key track, worth the price of admission. I asked Wellman if precipitation was also present, and he confirmed that it was not; the thick sound is that of 35mph winds racing through the grass and trees. The unique nature of the track is the way the cranes react to the wind, which at times drowns them out; in the quieter moments they converse again (most likely, unless we are anthropomorphizing, about the weather). In the wake of the winds, the crows come out; and as dusk begins to fall, the flock settles down for the night.
The framework of the set makes it a perfect pairing with London Sound Survey’s From Dusk Till Dawn, the final work of field recordist Ian Rawes. Together, these releases paint the portrait of a day in different parts of the world. We realize that humans are not the only creatures with daily rhythms; we become the backstory in another species’ play. The experience is humbling, yet also comforting; if the sandhill cranes weathered the storm, so can we. (Richard Allen)