ROOM40 – EDRM426 – 4th November 2016
This is one for the David Lynch fans, but also fans of experimental industrial noise, and those who appreciate works which exist in the realms between media.
Factory Photographs was one of a number of commissions made by the curator of the exhibition David Lynch: Between Two Worlds, a retrospective exhibition held at Brisbane’s Galley of Modern Art in 2015. The exhibition featured Lynch’s works in painting, sculpture, installation and photography, and included a large section of his Factory Photographs: shots of factories in various states of disuse, taken over several decades.
Raised in the country, surrounded by woods and farms, Lynch developed a fascination with the architecture, the machines and ‘the smoke and fear’ of factories from his visits to his mother’s native Brooklyn. HEXA is Laurence English and Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu), and Factory Photographs is their sonic response to Lynch’s images.
While Lawrence English’s work is often typified by a delicate approach to sound and the use of delicate field recordings, it’s clear that the inspiration and the collaborative input of Stewart have pulled him toward something altogether more visceral: Factory Photographs is an intense and brutal work.
‘Sledge’ rumbles and crashes in with some heavy noise, an amorphous roar barrels and funnels a dense sonic cloud, from amidst which shuddering throbs grind and thrum. Each piece is a blast of earthmoving noise, more evocative of a super-scaled atomic destruction than heavy industry or its demise and dilapidation. Yet as noise without clear definition or shape, it’s still highly evocative, and does correspond with Lynch’s conception of ‘the ideal factory location’, with ‘no real nature…’ This is sound which is brutal, harsh, unrelenting and unnatural, wholly man-man made yet wholly inhuman. The barrage of noise is built from a conglomeration of hums drones and thunderous sounds on sounds, roiling, churning. The rhythms are not percussive, but born from cyclical undulations, the churn of industry at its heaviest, in its earthiest form: the mine, the quarry, the drilling rig, the smelting of ore and the forging of metals. But of course these are only echoes of an industrial past: the factories lie empty now, derelict or inching toward dereliction, and the workers have gone, transferred, replaced, relocated, on the same scrapheap as the rusted machinery or otherwise forced into alternative careers.
As crushingly depressing as the factory may have been, its absence leaves only a lack and the question of progress, but as what cost? But equally, the earth-gouging sounds of Factory Photographs reminds of the finite nature of the earth’s resources, in particular fossil fuels. What is left apart from irreparable scars on the landscape once every last scrap has been excavated? Where is the future?
Dark, sonorous notes hang heavy on ‘A Breath’, and Factory Photographs is rich in gloomy atmosphere. Sheet metal thunder resonates through vast empty spaces, and clusters of clangs reverberate in the grimy darkness to create a bleak and oppressive sensation. The turbulent roar of ‘Vertical Horizons’ is harrowing and unforgiving, building to a shrieking howl of feedback while the regular rhythm of heavy machinery rotating is replicated on ‘Over Horizontal Plains’, while thuds and distant rumbles continue endlessly beneath. Digging, dredging…
It’s unsettling but exciting, and the prospect of an audiovisual work, featuring, with Lynch’s approval, the original visual montage of his photographs in 2017 is a thrilling one. Meanwhile, the album more than works in its own right as a dark, stark and uncomfortable collection of pieces which shake the listener’s sensibilities and leaves a hollow, uneasy sensation in its wake.