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.

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