Mathieu Ruhlmann & Banks Bailey 'Anáádiih' (3LEAVES, 2011)

Anáádiih is the first collaboration between these two dedicated phonographers, consisting of six layered tracks for a total of forty minutes of immersive sound. The sounds in question consist of what was an ongoing additive process in which recordings from Arizona – courtesy of Bailey – were woven into/with recordings from BC – courtesy of Rhulmann. I'm sure the two had an equal part in the process, but to me, the style sounds all Ruhlmann. Bailey's past albums, including the fairly recent – and fantastic – Upwelling on Mystery Sea, is consistent more so with the obfuscated field recording and dark ambient work of friend, collaborator, and contemporary, Ian Holloway – stemming from the Lustmord/Köner axis. Anáádiih, on the other hand, like Rhulmann's previous work, isn't hiding anything. These are straight field recordings, thoughtfully layered and arranged.

Anáádiih is teeming with life.

This album feels like a trek along an endless foothill of sound, along the way presenting animal calls, weather, and unnameable pockets of rustling activity. The strongest moments are when the tactile elements are layered with the sounds of animal life, and on several occasions – especially when the distant cries of wolves or birds of prey can be heard – are executed with utmost aplomb. I'll offer a piece of criticism that's becoming a bit of a blanket statement of mine for a lot of work in this genre, in that I would have liked to have seen more of an overall arc or sense of movement in the compositions. It becomes easy to focus only on individual sounds and how they work together in a track, but to forget the purpose of these sounds and the direction one has decided to take them.

Though still useful, maybe the above critique is perhaps irrelevant in this instance as I am still able to grasp, what I think is, the underlying idea at the album's conclusion. Personally, I hear Anáádiih as a cross section of an old growth tree, as if each tree ring captured the sound of a year of life in the wild, and these two artists were somehow able to tap into and unravel the history steeped within those rings. I believe Bailey and Ruhlmann set out to create an aural picture, a framing of the timelessness of sound as channeled through their own reconstructions of that sound. An anonymous Navajo poem in the liner notes helps to convey thoughts and ideas through an understanding of nature as a precious thing, and these sounds reflect that eternal idea. Edition of 100. Exquisitely packaged.


Richard Garet & Asher Thal-Nir 'Melting Ground' Dvdr (Contour Editions, 2011)

Illuminations of Flicker-

"Richard Garet's melting ground," writes Jennifer Eberhardt, "flickers gently, pulsating and vibrating, co-opting for video flicker's affect/aspect of nostalgia."

The gentle pulsating affect of film flicker has the power to evoke a sense of nostalgia from not only those who've grown up with it, but also from observers of more recent generations, whose association's with the phenomenon stem from a lack of interaction with old forms of film screening technology. New generations -- rather knee-jerkingly -- perceive phenomena like flicker and discoloration as film defects. Melting Ground, however, utilizes these "defects" purposefully to evoke emotions, like nostalgia, usually associated with outdated technology, much like how philip Jeck or DJ Olive inject record crackle into their work, revealing, for a brief moment, windows into the past.

The visual portion of Melting Ground is a single, uninterrupted hand-held shot of the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, as taken from inside a helicopter by Richard Garet. The footage was further processed by way of digital manipulation, in which, the natural condition, light, motion, rhythm, and duration were altered. Asher Thal-Nir provides a simple yet stunning soundtrack of the internal workings of a closely mic'd piano, while additionally he added looped fragments to create irregular structures within the piece.

The work unfolds slowly, gently panning across a sepia-saturated glacial landscape. Depth perception becomes a struggle to maintain on the part of the observer as the camera moves from high to low areas of contrast, on occasion the whole of a mountain side becomes drowned out by a pulsating white sky only to have, a few frames later, that same sky just as quickly retreat into the background. The disorientation and the overall blurred-focus style of the film allows one to really get lost in it's changing forms.

Eventually, Impossible figures reveal themselves in the snow and rock: human faces, roads of endless tire marks, close-ups of a fringed tablecloth, and Jesus on the cross, at times allowing me to forget the true nature of what it really is that I am looking at, not a place of complete and utter barrenness but one of life and movement, steeped in history.

It's difficult to "score" a film, and all too often the outcome is anything but good. But Asher managed to create a rather complimentary piece of music here that's as bleak and yet, warming, as Garet's visuals are. Compelling work and another winner for Contour Editions.

Visual Excerpts