Posts Tagged ‘conteporasry’

Room40 – RM4163 – 3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Field recordings are rarely something one would consider ‘contemporary’, although if you think about it, they invariably capture a moment in time in some way or another, be it the morning of the dawn chorus or the grind of machinery which is firmly post-industrialisation; the sounds committed to tape all document history in sound.

Ian Wellman’s latest release is quite specific in its focus on present times. It is almost impossible to avoid the pandemic; it has, after all, affected all of our lives, and in myriad ways. As the accompanying text states, ‘If this past couple of years has taught us anything, it is that to hold someone closely is not something we may take for granted. The bonds of friends and of family are tenuous, as tenuous as the world that we find ourselves in.’ While most attention has understandably been given to the vulnerable, the bereaved, and the sufferers of long covid, there have been long—terms and slow-evolving effects on everyone. And this is what Wellman soundtracks with subtlety and care here.

The parenthetical ‘(Police Helicopter Activity Increased – Jul 2020)’ is brief, but it’s impactful. On the one hand, it’s a simple snippet of the sound of rotors; on the other, it’s the kind of conglomeration of low-flying helicopter buzz that makes you duck and look up and feel paranoid: police helicopters hovering or circling overhead always do, right?

The final moments of ‘It Crept into Our Deepest Thoughts’ bursts into shards on abrasive noise in the final moments. It’s on ‘The Toll on Our Daily Lives’ that Wellman really encapsulates the struggle. The first four minutes are dislocated ambience, which reflects the general sense of detachment and distance, but the last minute is dominated by a rising tide of noise, a surging swell. And it speaks because it really is the sound of swelling tension and anguish. The reality is that living through this is not something that belongs to a ‘model’, there is no fix by means of re-engagement. This resonates because it speaks to and of the building anxiety, and it builds because maintaining that level of alertness, that level of fear, actually has a cumulative effect in real terms, and we’re simply not designed to process life in the now. There is nothing normal about this, old or new, and ‘The Toll on Our Daily Lives’ encapsulates this perfectly, both in its title and the sonic smog that ambulates broodingly, again growing in density and becoming more oppressive and heavy and harsh as it progresses. You feel not only the weight, but the tension. It’s real, it’s palpable, and it’s a direct reflection of life as lived.

The interludes, too, are so very visual and evocative: a cock crows and what sounds like rainfall and passing cars crackle and splash on ‘(Ash Falling on Power Lines – Sept 2020)’ (the ash of wild fires burning), and there’s a post-apocalyptic feel to ‘(Wind Against Decaying Bus – Jan 2021)’, and they all combine to create what the blurb describes as ‘a devolving diary of unsteady moments and the assurance of change as the one constant in our collective times’.

‘As The Beast Swallowed Us Whole’ veers between ominous rumbling and near-ambience and surging, cracking textured distortion that borders on noise, and there is nothing comforting about this album. Even the final track, the optimistically-titled ‘The Light at the End’ is woozy and disorientating, and evaporates into a crackle of static that ends abruptly, and feels more like the light being snuffed out. You want to be wrong… but life… it’s a killer. Swear all you like, but whether or not it’s going to be okay remains to be seen.

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