Saturday, December 28, 2013
Martyna Poznanska - Listening East (CDr)
The more artist I hear who are working in field recordings, the more it begins to dawn on me how widespread the work can be. It isn't always, by any means, but I'm struck on occasion how individual the sounds can seem at times, a quasi-paradoxical condition, I'd think. Poznanska, new to me, took her mics eastward from Berlin, to eastern Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia and the results are wonderful, very different in some ways from others in the field that I've heard.
"микроавтобус", the opening track, is marvelous--I've no idea of the source of these moans; they sound animal-like, as though they could be seals, maybe birds, but at the same time it wouldn't surprise me if they're mechanical in nature, whistles or sirens. Whatever, they're intensely plaintive, ghostly and moving, floating over the adjacent harbor (?) sounds. Poznanska doesn't avoid the beautifully banal, however, following that piece with "Odessa's Best Accordionist and a Cat", amidst rain, a fine snapshot capturing the moment perfectly and lending it a special, evocative atmosphere; the rain makes the piece. There's a great variety here as well as a sense of composition about the pieces; I'm assuming there's been a good amount of post-recording construction and it's very solidly done. Each track coheres well (thirteen of them, fairly short--which helps--from less than a minute to about seven) and tends to traverse several points from start to finish. Sea sounds, traffic, static sizzle, overheard and fragmented music and conversations, urban vibrations. Those moans from the first track return in the tenth, sounding more siren-like; really great.
The disc as a whole is quite strong, flowing well, each piece contributing something, often quite striking, always showing a fine discernment for both sonic interest and subtle social import. Poznanska is certainly someone to keep an ear on.
Philip Samartzis - Current (Bogong Sound)
There's also field recordings as more direct social commentary and documentation of a more general, underlying state of affairs. The two works on Samartzis' latest offering deal with power, electric power, its sources in Australia and, implicitly, associated issues.
"Flow" is concerned with hydroelectric power and traces the process from the source (gurgling water and squeaking wood, perhaps from a mill?) into power (ringing, semi-pure tones of sine-like character, lined with deep generator hum). Water cascades through vast interiors, swirls, booming, through gigantic containers, a steady thrum permeating everything. There's a nagging sense of missing visuals here; as excellent as the sounds themselves are, they cry out for footage. Several times, Samartzis cuts sharply to silence, severing the aural flow, shifting the view slightly; it's both disorienting to one's immediate sense and stabilizing for the piece as a whole. A range of electric sounds are encountered for the duration of the piece, often with a harsh edge, quiet to roaring, while water in its original form (at least soundwise) reappears from time to time. Fine work.
For "Extraction", Samartzis enlists the aid of Michael Vorfeld and sets out to cover the industrial processes necessary for generating the energy in a light bulb. Vorfeld uses various piezo-electric devices rigged to trigger sound responses while Samartzis sifts recordings of coal mine dredgers, turbine generators, high tension power wires and more. It's a humming, crackling, vaguely sinister world wherein large scale events are always contrasted with happenings on more discreet, almost microscopic levels. Raw, prickly and very exciting.
I haven't heard much from Samartzis in recent years--very happy to hear that he continues to produce vital work.
I don't see a direct link for ordering this at Bogong Sound but I imagine they would respond to queries.