Friday, May 17, 2019

A.F. Jones - Bourdon du Kinzie (Unfathomless)

A.F. Jones - For Eschrichtiidae (Omniana) (Taâlem)

Having known Al Jones and his history so well over the past almost two decades, it's always difficult--impossible, really--to listen to his sound constructions without performing an image overlay with his long career in the navy, especially his subsurface activity with sonar while spending extended periods of time on a submarine. Listening to the opening few minutes of 'Bourdon du Kinzie' (Battery Kinzie, in Port Townsend, Washington was the source site for the sounds here), one can quite easily imaging oneself submerging, the aural activity of the upper world being washed out in deep gurgles, swamped by tones of water, rendering all sounds strangely and aqueously refracted. The environment soon turns cavernous, stone walls vibrating with energy from hidden turbines; a photo shows Jones pressing a mic against one such old, stained wall. This seemingly distant activity buffets against bangs and dull scrapes right next to one's ears--eerie and very effective. The piece lingers in this general area for a good while, expanding into adjacent zones filled with sandy rubbings, deep, heady thrums and more. It blurs out a bit, echoes of watery voices offset by indecipherable much closer utterances. Just as the listener is settling into a kind of edgy comfort zone, a few minutes from the disc's conclusion, there's an enormous, deafening series of bangs and groans, as though the hide of a battleship is being rent (there's even a Godzilla-sounding moan or two). A dramatic and thrilling climax to a very fine release.

The title of the single track on the 3" disc 'For Eschrichtiidae (Omniana)' is '48°06'48"N 122°45'19"W', also an area  somewhere in northwest Washington state, while Eschrichtiidae is a gray whale (baleen). There's water to be heard, but here in the form of rain falling heavily on a hard surface, perhaps metal. A bit before the halfway mark, the precipitation ceases and one hears a haze of machinery, maybe HVAC units or heating generators. A harsh kind of crackling takes over, difficult to ascertain the source (I thought briefly of the clicks made by whales, though that doesn't seem likely). A gradual diminution of sound begins, as of some smoothly whirring motor very slowly disappearing into fog, interrupted by soft splashes of water. It's very obscure, mysterious and disappears abruptly before the listener can pin down any definitive meaning. Fascinating and oddly provocative.


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