I hope to meet Ben Owen in the flesh one of these days to personally thank him for the existence of Winds Measure, easily one of my favourite labels, and no doubt the one that's made the biggest impression on me this year. I also feel the need to mention that he's one of the only people (that I know of) putting field recordings out on tape.
In a way I understand the desire to steer clear of cassettes when releasing field recordings, mostly for reasons of fear in losing the structural subtly and texture that the style / method / practice can be known for. At the same time, however, I feel Owen uses the format to his advantage, picking and choosing work that seems well suited to the warmth and mechanics of analog tape. It doesn't hurt that the tapes are pro-dubbed either. Here's a little catch-up of two cassettes from early August.
Stefan Thut and Taku Unami
am wind, d±50
"What we call the sound of rain or wind we could better call the sound of plant leaves and branches." – Francisco Lopez.
It wasn't long ago that I came across this quote by Lopez, and I find I'm often bringing it to the fore of my mind when listening and critiquing. It is easy to forget that the sound of rain, wind or snow are directly dictated by the objects and surfaces they strike, and where one may be actively listening in that given space. In relation to Stefan Thut's "am wind" recording, it makes me think of all the possible outcomes of this piece, all the millions of variations that could have surfaced given countless factors, and it makes me realize that it's not about trying to record wind, that's impossible. It's about recording a location that is being activated by wind, and thus dictates that no two recordings of the same weather process can stand alike.
The first of Thut's two wind recordings is a particularly good representation of the sound of low to high velocity winds, while the second is far more settled, with intermittent bursts carrying the sounds of creaking fences in their wake. Wind recordings are hard to do, and Thut does a good job at it, a fine example of the unprocessed field work that Winds Measure goes above and beyond to endorse.
Side B sees Thut's other musical facet, the cello, come to life in an extended drone piece with Taku Unami (sinewaves). The recording has a very 'open room' feel, with a plenitude of movement and shuffling. In many ways it acts as a mirror piece to the wind recordings, especially in it's near-silent-to-quite-active articulation. I'm not convinced that actively listening to this piece for 37 minutes is the best way to go, as that should probably be reserved for the outshining A side.
Angharad Davies and Taku Unami
Taku Unami strikes again, and this time with London based violinist Angharad Davies. This near hour endeavor finds Davies in further arcane exploration of the violin, her instrument of choice, while both musicians are credited as playing "clap". The clap heard here refers not to some baroque instrument you've never heard of, but to the kind of common activity you might hear after a recital, though far less intrusive. Two Hands takes the predictable associations of clapping, the common wall-of-sound applause that always follows a performance or recital, and flips it on its head, utilizing clapping in a far more nuanced manner. Part one also finds the ever-so-slow clap interlaced with a delicately handled violin by Angharad. This one definitely grew on me.
While mimicking the clapping I heard through the speakers at home, and including the long silences in between, I found I had to consciously think about not clapping twice or more times in a row. It was like relearning to ride a bicycle. It's interesting that clapping in succession, that is, repeating the same movement and sound over and over, feels more normal than expending less energy and only doing that thing once. I suppose it's the fault of conditioning. Do try this at home.
Angharad Davies and Taku Unami - Two Hands (excerpt) by ScrapyardForecast