Bernard Herman, Mongrel Scribbler

Madder Gala, Cartomancy and Chiromancy

released on Rustle VV

This is the second of two reviews (see first review) covering the work of the Brooklyn based cassette label Rustle VV. Here I’ll look at Bernard Herman’s Mongrel Scribbler and Cartomancy and Chiromancy by Madder Gala.

Both cassettes have the same simple black and white artwork, slightly disturbing images, very distinctive. Mongrel Scribbler has the catalogue number scratched on the side of the cassette. Cartomancy and Chiromancy has only one side of music. These quirks and oddities are part and parcel of the Rustle VV artistic experience. The more essential part, the music, manages to live up to expectation.

Mongrel Scribbler’s eight tracks share a specific bundle of common features. All are characterised by the twisted, unhinged, slightly psychotic high tenor voice of the artist, presumable Bernard Herman. At various times, this voice and its various ravings brings to mind a range of possible influences: the tone and imagery of Jim Morrison’s poetic efforts (Bitten by a Snake, From Home to Home), sung in a weedy anguished NY voice; some of Beefheart’s more personal peregrinations; nuances of Robert Plant before a Zeppelin-esque explosion (Short Haired Woman); various new romantic affectations, from Bowie to Gary Numan via David Byrne (Deliverance, Outside Gates of Heaven). All of which seem to emanate from a performance in the avant-garde tradition (yes, there is one) brought together in Warhol’s sitting room.

Some of the most successful passages are held together thematically by alluding, cleverly or sensibly, to religious imagery drawing on the darker morality of the Old Testament, inviting comparisons with Blues and Gospel declamatory styles, especially in Outside Gates of Heaven in which the principal voice is layered with a deeper voice to set up something resembling a call and response liturgy.

In contrast to these songwriting strengths we have the simplicity and effectiveness of the musical accompaniment. Simple synth pads and twinkly embellishments, light effects, some sparse percussion, the occasional double tracked vocal line, used sparingly and with focus and direction – all these manifest an easy command of a few musical resources put to good use. In fact it’s the sharp focus of this album that left the strongest impression.

Madder Gala’s, Cartomancy and Chiromancy is (I think) one long piece because it begins and ends with similar material, evidence of some sort of structured composition. This work is characterised by the use of loops and short samples, from 4 note piano motifs to cello phrases, tinkly beats, looped voices, synthy or field recording instrumental sound. The vocal passages might come from an old 78 or from a random radio broadcast. A careful use of enveloping helps the different elements emerge and recede, changes of mood and direction suggest a vast dreamscape with intriguing connotations.

Some vocals and a rather obviously cheesy bass riff breaks the spell somewhat. Too much of anything can pin down a work like this and up until now it had avoided anything too concrete. This in itself is interesting – how and why does this happen and at what points does a listener switch off because of a change of direction or mood?

As with the previous work released on this label, my only question, which doesn’t apply to the Madder Gala offering, is why artists still seem to be limiting themselves to the three minute (or so) song format. It’s as if we’ve forgotten an enormous and rich cultural heritage, from both European and North American traditions, of song and balladry which creates songs to be as long as they need to be. Unless the three minutes (or so) just happens coincidentally to be the ideal length.

Nonetheless, both albums would be very good models for young aspirants with some measure of originality seeking a way out of indie-pop mediocrity.

 

 

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Magma, Thanos Chrysakis

Magma is a 2011 release by Thanos Chrysakis on the Russian label Monochrome Vision. The work, a 30 minute piece in the electroacoustic idiom, makes extensive use of electronic devices, acoustic sounds and field recordings.

A piece of this length is a bold venture. Most electroacoustic, or if you prefer, acousmatic pieces, for fixed medium, are in the 8 – 12 minute category. Any longer and they probably wouldn’t get programmed, unless it’s a ‘classic’ like Dhomont’s Forêt Profonde. In fact last time I checked, most of the opportunities for this kind of music insist on shorter pieces, not to mention suffering from the most pathetic ageist regulations, but I digress.  So releasing a longer work on a specialist label makes sense. If you want some fresh musical experiences I’d suggest that Monochrome Vision is well worth a visit.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy a good blast of acousmatic abstraction. Magma pushes all the buttons that you’d expect: inventiveness, pace, flow, expert use of a wide dynamic and spectral range. As a work based on a proliferation of gestures there is less in the way of morphological investigation by means of more sustained textures and the development of restricted resources. I put this down to the weight of the history of music in the teaching of this idiom – music has to go somewhere, has to show constant invention, keep busy, or be less so by contrast. In thinking about the whys and wherefores of acousmatic music Paul Virilio’s ideas about speed and information overload often come to mind. If music conjurs up a place or an inner space, then this isn’t a relaxing musical space or one made for reflection – it’s fast and furious most of the time, requiring an intellectual rather than an emotional response. All of which has its place.

This is a very well composed piece and I could go into great detail as to why I offer that conclusion, such as examining the complex relationships between the various strands of material. Primarily though, Magma succeeds in holding the listener’s attention for long periods, a very difficult feat in working with highly processed material of such abstraction.

I’ve always considered the core of acousmatic composition to be similar to working out in a gymnasium. You develop great strength, stamina and technique relating to an extremely focused area of endeavour. Your aural skills are honed to near perfection and your production values soar. Ultimately though, developing the analogy, there comes a time when you have to apply all this training to a sport, otherwise you end up with a big muscles, great strength and the only friends you have are in the gym. Or is that being unfair?

Thanos Chrysakis has since explored a range of new directions, in particular improvisational styles incorporating an electroacoustic sensibility. Magma in one sense is a (re-) statement of the artist’s credentials in which we are treated to his strong compositional skills –  the collaborative and improvisational projects build on and extend these core strengths.

Rustle VV is a cassette label run by Brooklyn based artist Joshua Sullivan. He releases new work mainly by solo artists who explore underground territories in and around the  noisier singer/songwriter genres. In Joshua’s own words, the aesthetic of the label has been described as American Gothic and I don’t like that very much. I took a lot of inspiration from all over the place but maybe it helps to name a few: the poetry of Samuel Greenberg, Emily Dickinson and Fernando Pessoa, early American folk and blues recordings and post-war field recordings, zine and d-i-y photocopy culture, 19th century photo-postcards, 80s post-punk and gothic bands (like Bauhuas), Junior Kimbrough, Jandek and Corwood Industries, G.I. Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann. 

I think that these days, in the claustrophobic world of new music based on popular idioms, you need to have a clear idea of where you’re coming from if you want to find a niche. I think this label does that very well, finding a niche, and for what it’s worth the music hovers around areas that I’ve always enjoyed – broadly music with strong roots such as folk and blues, as opposed to a lot of the fashionable disembodied indie pop, usually of UK origin, which makes me want to strangle somebody, then slit my wrists.

The label started as a private collection of various home recordings and has since branched out to include a range of artists found either online or seen in performance.

Linda Spjut – The First Stone (2012)

Linda Spjut, in common with several of the artists on the label, is both visual artist and musician. The most distinctive trait in The First Stone is heard in the treatment of the voice, described as the husky and darkened voice of a masked female character, as if a persona has been deliberately adopted for the album. However she manages it technically, her voice comes over as a very low tenor of indeterminate gender. In fact the first track, Love is Gone, could pass for a lo-fi version of Daniel Lanois’ 1995 production of Emmylou Harris’s Wrecking Ball, a highly stylised album characterised by the range and register of the voice, what I’d call a deep Southern treatment of the songs, and a warm blend of distinctive reverberation and chorus in the instruments. I can hear the same stylistic traits on track 6, Steel. The fact that I’m constantly reminded of other artists goes with the territory of reviewing music by singer/songwriters.

How do you do? has shades of Lennon’s solo albums after the Beatles. All the Tears is simple, very well produced, minimal but never monotonous. Unfortunately it clips into distortion at a couple of points, probably not intended, which tarnishes the otherwise excellent overall production.

Homeland smacks of early Dylan, mixed in with a dash of U2, yet it remains always folky, well grounded. The Deep Dark oh the Wild, a simple but effective couple of chords and a slack beat, keeps the work consistent. The vocals are simple but engaging, the accompanying sounds exceptionally well orchestrated. Crossroads offers more of a bluesy Southern stomp, conjuring up visions outcast snake healers and dodgy redneck misdemeanours, for which I have a particular soft spot. I’d say that the visions or mental images that come to mind with this music sets it apart as highly stylised, dark and filmic, folky and bluesy, conveying mood and atmosphere. Want it Back is the only track out of kilter with the rest of the album. The guitars in particular are especially well produced and there is never too much at once. Yet it’s all done undoubtedly on a shoestring. This is honest music, more so than much of the posturing in the so called experimental scene.  My only question would be to ask why the tracks are so short. I’d have happily listened to much longer versions of some of this material. If this is a side-effect of mp3 culture then it’s unnecessary because we’re not talking about a big commercial venture here.

PERFVGIVM – Le Mal Voisin (2009)

The first song, Wings of the Heart, offers us a mix of field recordings and heavily clipped distorted guitar, the guitar being the distinctive trait across the three tracks. Not forgetting a voice like Muddy Waters through a tin can microphone. The approach to the guitar is in my opinion a bold and admirable statement. Distressed beyond anything reasonable and miles away from what the music industry expects from a guitar, the sound incorporates what most guitarists and record producers spend hours (and buckets of cash) trying to eliminate. So, an emphatic distortion that doesn’t attempt to strip the enamel off your teeth.

At heart we still have a folky and bluesy archival feel to the whole album. Following shades of Ray Davies in That’s a WomanLe Mal Voisin has the cadences and spirit of an old blues song – relaxed phrasing means that the guitar is occasionally left to feed back, sounding at times like Hendrix noodling about in the studio or at home in the armchair. After several listens I began to love it. We finish with field recordings, broadband noise, or, from the sleeve notes, a recording of night entering with rain falling outside on the sea, wind whistling in an attic, the inside of a clock tower, a dog on a chain howling, a boat rocking over crests, and a neighbor rehearsing opera. All these while a guitar makes thunder.

More from the catalogue up next…

Knotted Alembic

02/01/2012

Knotted Alembic

Thanos Chrysakis: INSIDE PIANO, SYNTHESIZER, VIBRAPHONE & RADIO, SHRUTI BOX, CHIMES

Philip Somervell: INSIDE PIANO/PIANO

released on Aural Terrains

This new release reveals more of the rich inventiveness and creative drive behind Thanos Chrysakis, this time in a collaboration with Philip Somervell. Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate to have reviewed a range of work on Chrysakis’ label Aural Terrains, work which broadly falls into electroacoustic composition or free improvisation, Knotted Alembic being an example of the latter.

Knotted Alembic easily reaches, and in many ways surpasses, the very high standards of previous releases. From the first few seconds you are drawn immediately into the viscerality of the sound, the sense of agency, the simple but effective combination of two players attending to contrasting tasks – one more static, the other more dynamic. The natural reverberation of the inside piano is exploited to the full. My only criticism is that the first piece doesn’t go on long enough, such was the interest in the clear articulations of the restricted range of sounds added to the energy of the playing.

Tracks 3 and 5 continue this investigation of the inside piano. Here I should mention the overall quality of the recording, a fine studio engineering job. Track 3 is a remarkable piece of music: we have the suspenseful quality of restraint, where very simple chords are allowed to sustain, revealing the inharmonicity of the struck strings, and where silence is given a structural role. Each event attempts to explore a different articulation, a different timbral nuance. You are obliged to listen attentively. Track 5 examines further the inharmonicity of the piano, its metallic resonances. I drew parallels here with the timbral and spectral explorations of some of the new microtonal music played on hand made metallophones. I felt that in this track, apparently created earlier than the others and obviously in different circumstances, the piano playing was more agitated and a wider range of sounds used than elsewhere in the album, though the work unfolds at just the right pace to appreciate the entry of the radio passages. This piece came over as less integrated into the album, despite the elegance of several very beautiful and straightforward ‘musical’ passages.

Track 2 consists of a low midrange pedal and foregrounded actions on vibes, chimes, drone and piano. The iterations of the tuned percussion, the use of the piano as tuned percussion, snaps on the inside piano – all of these helped the music to move formlessly in and out of different moods.

Two of the pieces, tracks 4 and 6, focus on the use of the sruti box as a strong background presence. The sruti is always a good choice of instrument if you want a versatile but unobtrusive background cushion on which to sit with your various gestures. In fact that’s why I think the instrument was designed. I’ve always understood and experienced the sruti box in the context of an accompaniment instrument for chanting mantras, or for singing simple Sanskrit praise songs, like the tanpura. It’s not surprising therefore that it never offends. In track 4 exploits the beating inherent in the drone’s texture, which contrasts well with the piano figures. Track 6 sets a range of musical resources against the drone: inside piano scrapes (bowed perhaps?) which are so physical that you feel the materiality of the instruments with more than your ears, alongside a synth bass, adding texture and density. There is never too much at one time, a temptation wisely avoided throughout this album. In fact we return to the simple and time-honoured beauty of a figure and ground presentation, true in fact to to the sruti and other dronal instruments.

The last track is a short coda to the album, a sweet miniature with piano and synth,  another figure on ground.

The music never collapses into the easy option of alluding to the filmic, so simple to do with a piano whereby the player simply wanders around in a floating space of meaningless random chords and lines, often contextualised as ‘ambient’ to cover up any lack of design or intention. The artists’ close attention to the morphologies and materiality of the various sounds is far too important to let that particular kind of reductionism spoil the work.

Finally, going back over the output of Aural Terrains, I’d offer the suggestion that, because of its careful use of restricted resources, the hints of restraint and its fine treatment of pace and dynamics, Knotted Alembic is Chrysakis’ best offering to date.

Barrel, so called because they scrape, are as follows:-

Alison Blunt – violin

Ivor Kallin – vioilin and viola

Hannah Marshall – cello

The tracklist gives us some clues about what to expect in the music:-

1 – RIGWIDDIE SNAUCHLE STRIKES AGAIN IN STYLE – 22:21
2 – SOFT PORN & HARD CHEESE – 1:49
3 – SKLATCH: unseemly semi-liquid mess – 22:29
4 – MOTHS & FEATHERS – 32:17

I’ll begin with a preamble.

Free improvisation has become very trendy of late. This is not surprising in view of some of the disappointments of post dance derivatives and unfathomable noise art. In particular the more reductive trends seem to be finding the most favour with reviewers and other doxosophers, folks who tell us the way things are.

It helps to move things along if the artists associate with other artists of the same ilk, hunting in packs if you like, or if they associate with untouchable ‘masters’ in the field, or if one conjurs up a name for the ‘school’ (useful for the media to scoop up) such as the new pan-European texturalists or similar.

In fact it’s reached the stage that some artists could record themselves shitting into a bucket and the specialist reviewers would say, ‘well, I don’t understand it, (s)he might be taking the piss (excuse the scatological references) and I don’t know if I really like it at all, but (after some devious literary manipulations) it just has to be good because it’s by x, y or z. We’re talking here of course about taste, more or less informed.

What I can say about Barrel is that their music doesn’t fit into any of the current categories, schools, sects or cliques that clutter the free improvisation stage. Although it’s not my regular ‘cup of tea’, the music has made a strong and positive impression on me, I like it a lot and I’ll listen to it time and time again. It’s what I would call very good music, that judgement contingent of course on my more or less informed taste.

We have four pieces, two digital home recordings and two recordings of live performances. How can I begin to talk about the music? Well, imagine three first class musicians locked up in a time capsule, having associated with various shamans, drunk Romanian fiddlers, Yiddish chant leaders, the serialists, especially Webern. Then folks like Ligeti, Satie, and various Dadaists pop their head round the door from time to time to put in their tuppenceworth. After a few months you let them loose in the 21st century to pick up on the very new. That would be Barrel.

I remember talking to a musician who had just been to a concert of Schoenberg’s string quartets. Her conclusion was that it all sounded so normal nowadays. Perhaps it’s hard to make strings sound too atonal, given that the bowed string has such a low inharmonicity. I don’t know for sure but possibly because of the strings we have here this very listenable trio, playing of course in a very modern, even modernist, idiom. Then you begin to notice the folk influences, the strange groaning, coughing, snippets of (mock?) Yiddish chant and other incomprehensible utterances from Ivor Kallin. I could go on to talk about the musical and artistic implications of Ivor Kallin’s half-Jewish and half-Scottish roots, but the potential for political incorrectness prevents me.

Add to the aforementioned elements the extended techniques, emerging ‘legitimately’ (ie beautifully and seamlessly integrated into the flow of the music) and finally the inexplicable ‘tightness’, inventiveness, complexity and meaningfulness of the musical conversation between the three. Throw in their understanding of each other and finally what I would call ‘human-ness’ in the ebb and flow or rhythms of the pace of the music. Like bio-rhythms. On top of all that, and at the risk of sounding contradictory, I still can’t believe that most of this isn’t scored music, not least because of the elegant balance between the higher strings and the strong foundation of the cello.

Focusing on the verbal intrusions, I’d point you directly to 213TV, Ivor’s collaborative video project with John Bisset. Need I say more? What struck me in their work is how, in both form and content and by means of glossolalia, mock violence, postures and gestures, the pair manage to hover around the cusp that separates seriousness from humour, most evident in Smoo. Sometimes I’m not sure how to react, a feeling I experienced in French theatre after seeing a lot of plays by Ionesco, Beckett and Genet. At times In listening to Barrel’s music I find this to be a strength, a tap into the very strongest forms of 19th century European art.

All in all, because Barrel have such a firm, sure and confident grasp of life and music their work succeeds at all levels in enriching my own musical life. I happen to believe that their music will do the same for many others.

Yannick Franck’s work is well documented on his personal site. He runs the Idiosyncratics label and is very active both as a solo performer and with his YERMO project. From what I can gather he seems to be branching out into new areas, more research based recording projects. Hopefully I’ll be able to review some of the outcomes in the near future.

If you like his past work, you’ll enjoy this. But from what I’ve listened to in the past, I’d say that this new album has a more refined or sophisticated quality and comes over as an exercise in restraint. In terms of technical resources, things are quite straightforward -the artist tells me that he mostly uses analogue gear, ‘processing samples of my own voice and real instruments, and of course some software based instruments as well, but used only as a part of the composition process’.

Diving headlong into definitions, the music is ambient in some of the senses that Eno mentions in his Music for Airports liner note though there is a quality in the production that draws the listener in more than perhaps Eno envisaged. There are also ‘dark tendencies’, a cinematic concern with atmosphere and mood brought about by the use of dense textural layers. There are six pieces – one or two of the titles giving away Franck’s concern with the darker side, for example Urban Disease and Self Loading Defeat.

So what are the most evident characteristics of the album as a whole? Restraint first and foremost, most evident in Vides Linja where the feeling is that of holding back from the big overpowering gesture or texture which would break the spell.

Overall we find the same tonal (pitched) layered textures as in earlier works, a preference for the low to midrange, with the occasional gesture or contrasting layer, a light crackling and high frequency tones in Invott/Elements, a digitally modified birdscape in Helsingin Subterranean. We have looped pulses of timestretched instrumental sound offset with the occasional percussive flourish, as in Urban Disease. This piece had me travelling back to early Pink Floyd, waiting for a delicious Dave Gilmour solo to burst in. Very well balanced, high production standards, all evidence of a profesiional sound designer at work. Nothing too intrusive. I’ve heard music like this composed by less adept listeners which gradually starts to irritate as certain midrange frequencies are left running.

Good use is made of the back to front perspective: normally you’d play at spotting the clever use digital reverberation software, but in Invott/Elements and Helsingin Subterranean in particular the illusion of large mysterious spaces is beautifully fabricated – I’m hearing the space and not the software, if that makes sense.

A sense of narrative emerges at times, especially strong in The Answer which introduces background voices over (mostly pitched) modulating textural layers. The collage of these different nationalities speaking in English is offset by ‘stuff’ crashing about in the background. Towards the end I could pick out what sounded like quotations from various films.

The only track that did break the spell was Self Loading Defeat with its hint of synth and drum beats. But, and this probably says more about me than the music, I had inner visions of ‘bad things’ being done to victims, perhaps inappropriately clad virgins locked up in some crypt or another. All this without the use of corny ‘scary’ clichés.

The cleverest thing that Yannick has managed to do here is to make gentle statements within an idiom that doesn’t really thrive on gentleness. In a very unique manner, the music manages to be dark without being harsh or unpleasant.

Personally (yes, I know that my personal likes or dislikes are irrelevant) I liked this album the more I listened it. Yannick Franck strikes me as someone who knows what he wants and why he wants it. He also knows how to do it.

Yannick Franck‘s Memorabilia is released on silken tofu records


Mark Peter Wright’s Where Once We Walked is described as a sound composition based on location recordings gathered from the Polish homes, villages and surrounding environments of Holocaust survivors of 1945, who, as children, were transported to the Lake District and cared for at the now ‘lost’ wartime village of Calgarth Estate near Windermere.

This is one of the very few sound works I’ve encountered which sets out to engage with a subject of real historical and social importance, above and beyond the historical and social importance of, say, working more narcissistically with abstract sound as an art form. We have here an extremely emotive subject, a subject overworked in the extreme by a Hollywood film industry obsessed with what can only be described as war and holocaust pornography, and of course a subject which requires sensitivity in the approach and artistic treatment.

Before listening to the work I was struck by the simple elegance of an act of compassion, people caring for other people, children in this case, and by the local link to Lake District, a link established to a large extent by the artist/curator organisation Another Space.

We are invited to listen to the work, with its five episodes, as one whole piece. Overall the work is marked by detail, clarity and transparency in the actual quality of the recordings, by a leaning towards realistic or even naturalistic representation though the framing, sequencing and gentle crossfading of the various scenes. The various elements work well to deliver an exceptionally powerful narrative whose mood lifts the listener above and beyond the mere fact of well captured location recordings.

I think we should give work like this more attention and certailnly more credit for investigating new narrative forms. Because of the weight of narrative, this kind of work always strikes me as drawing closer to literature than to music or to what passes for ‘sound art’. I say this  because the best critical theory I’ve found which helps me to understand such work comes from two discourses sharing an interest in semiotics: the semiotic branch of literary theory and analysis, and some of the excellent writing on photography. In the sonic department the only critical writing that makes sense in this context would come from some of the very clever commentators and critics working in the field of new radio art.

Bakhtin, in the contest of examining specific literary forms, writes of the chronotope, a space/time unique to every work. Where Once We Walked presents us with an unfolding tableau of several chronotopes, though the strength of the work lies in the fact that we are able to join everything up, drawn as we are into the illusion of completeness by means of narrative method. Worthy of further consideration in this context, again from Bhaktin, is the notion that we can seek out chronotopic motifs, condensed reminders of particular types of time and space which carry metaphorical resonances: church bells, train stations, water and birds, subjects which would seem to be inexhaustible in their multiple resonances and dear to numerous field recordists.

The opening episode, A Past Present, leads with the pealing of church bells, then carries us slowly and gracefully inside the church to simple choral music, to the church organ and then to what sounds like a station, where the sound fades to a lingering resonance, holding on to the quality of the earlier music. Linear and filmic on the surface, but with deep undercurrents.

In Tobacco Trails we find ourselves outdoors with water and birds, very clear and clean. Long slow crossfades reveal a train departing, a train arriving, people talking and a muted tolling bell. Everything gives the impression of being very expertly scripted, again in a cinematic sense. Passages of composed polyphony underline the fact that this is a sound composition.

Hope Transmits begins with (I assume) a Jewish religious chant. This is layered with rain – this scene in particular seems to me to be representative of something deeply emotional – then thunder, heavier rain, electronic radio sounds and an abrupt cut off, possibly a combination of narrative exigency and a sharp contrast to the earlier very effective diminuendi. On the topic of an emerging narrative, I’d say that the composer has succeeded in walking the very fine line between telling us just enough and letting us create something meaningful for ourselves.

With Witness we listen to cars and to the ambience of a town or cityscape. More church bells, this time in the distance, carrying the weight of penitence. These recurring motifs speak to me of the artist’s restrictions on his choice of materials (I can imagine the dilemma of deciding whether to introduce new material, from hours of ‘footage’, or choosing to establish repetitions). We  then hear bicycles, other vehicles in transit, cars idling. I should mention here that I particularly enjoyed, perhaps for the first time, the sound of cars idling, a sound which always seems to intrude and spoil most recordings carried out in urban settings. Perhaps it’s down to the skill in framing. The bells reassert themselves, then linger till the end of the episode. I for one could listen to bell recordings all day.

The last episode, Where Once We Walked, delivers an interesting twist on the bell theme, this time in the shape of a clock bell plus the whirr of its internal machinery. It is 9 o’clock. A voice in distance, coloured by loudspeakers, is then layered with the interior of a place of worship, an interior marked by the sound of people moving in a large reverberant space. I might be wrong, but I always associate this kind of sonic complexity, the movement and spatial cues, with Roman Catholic places of worship, where all  sorts of social and liturgical events seem to be going on simultaneously, as opposed to the more ordered and focused soundscape of Protestant churches. This takes us to the broadband noise of water, possibly rain, then to birds (because the narrative environment invites meaningful interpretation we might well ask what these birds represent: symbols of peace, hope?), the hint of an organ, bees. We end up more or less where we began, in the same kind of comforting space, a place of worship, this time with the pentatonic folk melodies of a simple hymn and its organ accompaniment. Church music is unique in delivering this particular experience, a beauty in which we can participate. The footsteps to finish invite the listener to come to his or her own conclusions.

This is an excellent work and it comes over well as a cd release. But I see this kind of work as finding its best presentation as a radio work, taking advantage of all that the radio can offer. It belongs with the the kind of work we need so much in order to overcome hackneyed documentary conventions in public broadcasting, the sort of work that, even if it doesn’t get much radio play,  is persistently highlighted by the Canadians and the French in particular as radical, (and at the same time) forward thinking, and most of all optimistic.