Derek Baron - Recollects (Reading Group)
Back in 2006, Jason Lescalleet released 'The Pilgrim'. It was, at least in my experience, a unique and beautiful thing in this area of music, a work that was unabashed personal, nostalgic and emotional. I love it. That approach remains rare and maybe that's a good thing as the potential for morasses of indulgence certainly exists, in many regards but in this neck of the woods especially. On 'Recollects', Baron negotiates this ground with a very fine balance of emotional attachment and sonic appreciation. Side A of this LP opens with the sound of water being paddled, muffled conversation (I presume between Baron and his father), then the sound of a fire (I think) and the clinking of metallic objects--perhaps pots and pans, maybe the digging for tent poles. It's all thick and immersive, everyday matter-of-fact but evocative. The side continues in this manner, conversation emerging from the vast darkness of the pair's outing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the border of Minnesota and Ontario province. An overhead plane engine mixes wonderfully with running water, the water remaining to end the side. Side B begins with a mundane conversation between Baron's grandfather Austin and an elderly female neighbor before heading back into the outdoors, from which point the scene goes back and forth, the elders emerging into the wilderness, edging toward less mundane topics, like death. We hear the call of a barred owl and the awed responses of father and son. A lovely recording, heartfelt without overdoing the sentiment.
Marcin Barski - Wanda's Dream (Reading Group)
'Wanda's Dream' is constructed from cassette tapes Barski found in Polish flea markets. The tapes, originally privately made, date from the early 80s. In his informative and detailed notes, Barski mentions the importance and activity of the cassette scene in Poland and, as an outsider, one can only imagine the resonances in effect for a native. Still, something of that leaks in, even if filtered through the images of life behind the Iron Curtain that we in the West had always received. These tapes were made by one Jan, whose wife, Wanda, was a businesswoman in Vienna. The first track is essentially (through the fine static) a recording of Wanda snoring, harshly interrupted by feedback and more static that turns out to be from a recording of a soprano that seeps in and out; at the end some radio dial scanning. 'Jammed by the Soviets' features wonderfully garbled, underwater-sounding voices in Polish (Russian?), the Bach Toccata and Fugue and eventually a pop song to which someone, presumably Jan, first attempts to whistle then seems to yell angrily at in a disturbing manner--very disquieting. Side B commences mysteriously (the snoring reappears, often quietly, throughout, befitting the album's title) with distant orchestral music, a hollow whistling as of wind through a small aperture. The music bursts into prominence, a man's voice speaks as if orating, shuffling around, more rock songs from afar--you get the picture. Bleak, sad, tinges of desperation. Excellent.
Fergus Kelly - Trembling Embers (Room Temperature)
Quite possibly it's the cover image or even the track title, but a sense of urban grime and darkness permeates this strong collection of sounds from Kelly. Wielding 4 & 6 string devices, zither, field recordings, metal percussion, bass, samples and electronics, Kelly fashions ten rather dystopic pieces although there's a certain roundness about the sounds, a kind of cushion that ameliorates the potential acidity just enough to provide the listener an amount of edgy comfort. But there's also a strong sense of aloneness, of wandering through neighborhoods where the streets are empty but activity, possibly mechanical, is occurring behind the blank walls--sometimes hi tech, often low. If the palette is muted, the range of colors is still quite wide--I'm seeing umbers and siennas with the odd flash of electric blue/white--and easily holds one's attention, very much a case of wanting to see around the next corner. Very enjoyable and evocative, as has been much I've heard from Mr. Kelly.