Thursday, 27 December 2012

Songs Of The Living, And Of The Lived In (Free Double Digital Edition)

Albums reviewed by simon@thesoundofconfusion.co.uk


The only way to review a collection such as this is to allow oneself to become truly involved in the immersive qualities these intense, decorated sounds have to offer and then let them lap upon you as though they are the waves and you the shore. Lawrence English has achieved a careful and fine feat, he has framed these sounds much like a wilderness photographer looks at composition and then frames a photograph. Field recordings are not an immediate art, just as literature is a less immediate art than film or music, but that does not in any way make these field recordings less acknowledgeable, and it is of benefit for sceptics to recollect that for many years photography was not considered to be a proper art at all. These sounds should be approached with enthusiasm for they are captured moments of natural musicality within nature, and in the case of the second album, within more human environments as well. They are obtained from very wide-ranging locations and geographies from all the continents of our earth.

This musicality is evinced by the artist and given to us to appreciate. All he asks for is our time. Once that is given, delights occur. After listening to ‘Screaming Piha And Mealy Parrot Amazon Brazil’ I was so enthralled by its rich, fruitful sounds that when I could not find it again I became impatient and almost sad. ‘Antarctic Fur Seal Sleeping Esperanza Bay’ is one of the intimate tracks on this album, and it truly feels as though we are there with this creature, for the audio we are privileged to, as on all these tracks, is wonderfully detailed and fine, highlighting the power within these landscapes of sound. Lawrence English explains himself well when he writes: "I have collected together a series of recordings revealing in their brevity and focus a type of sheer intensity." Indeed, if this collection were to be used in appropriate clubs in London, in quiet rooms, I imagine a few souls would really greet these novel, non-impressionistic experiences; some would just half hear perhaps but I feel some would treat it as true event.

‘Experience’ is perhaps the keyword when listening to Lawrence English. From the point of view of simply capturing and highlighting individual sounds of the natural world this album can be considered, too. ‘Rhinoceros Beetle’ is an extraordinary and prized look into the microcosm of the creature in the title. However, in terms of melody and awareness of notes the principal success of this collection has to be the extravagant gem that is ‘Suikinkutsu Taima Japan’. It appears to be raindrops falling on pipes, and it is evocative to the point of wonder. Field recordings such as these are arguably more healing than many art forms, for they are more primal and real. The signature of the artist does not appear in these recordings. These sounds speak themselves clear and we cannot truly know the countenance or temperament of the one who records them. This is very likeable. It is almost impossible to rate a collection such as this. The number 10 comes to mind, or 0. Are their faults on this album? Lawrence could have recorded a freeway/motorway and yes, that would have been a mistake and likely would have given this collection a pretentious, out of place sentiment.

Instead, this album is pure meekness and what he has included is approaching a more plausible ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ territory perhaps? Reminiscent of that very influential film which captured visual field recordings and presented them as patterns in a very groundbreaking way, especially considering tracks such as ‘Microphone Collapsing In Grass Sinclair Wetland New Zealand‘ a piece which honestly causes the mind to ask: ‘What is melody? Is this a melody of a kind?’ It must be said that from the starting point of neutrality or indifference on the part of the listener, Lawrence’s written introduction to his work is engaging and shows us the context of his motives, valuably. There is purpose in these recordings, perhaps undefinable, but there is purpose. Meekness and purpose combined is a very engaging combination, always has and always will be. We very much look forward to the future release, ‘Viento’, which is an LP of wind recordings, conceived not by Lawrence himself but by an enormous windstorm which delayed his partner Rebecca and himself in Patagonia while on their way further south to Antarctica.

Lawrence English's website

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