Friday, July 05, 2013

Lasse-Marc Riek / Daniel Blinkhorn

Lasse-Marc Riek - Helgoland
Gruenrekorder CD. Gruen 109
[Field Recording Series]

Daniel Blinkhorn - Terra Subfónica
Gruenrekorder CD. Gruen 117
[Soundscape Series]

Gruenrekorder releases have the uncanny knack of sending me deep into the arms of Morpheus like no other label I know. Its happened before, sometimes on a Greek island, usually at home, feet up, headphones on, a small glass of something alcoholic to hand, the review playlist whirring away only for each track and album to morph into one big blob of half remembered sounds and tracks that are finally recalled when played back compos mentis.

Lasse-Marc Riek’s homage to Helgoland [thats the Germans spelling, everybody else, including us, the Brits, who used to rule the island until we gave it back to the Germans after the second world war, but not before blowing it to smithereens, call it Heligoland]. A small island off the German coast thats home to about a thousand people and well over three hundred species of sea bird. Over the course of three years and many trips to Helgoland Riek gathered over thirty hours of field recordings the edited results of which we have here.

Riek bookend his release with what you get when arriving on Helgoland and what you get when leaving. So its the wind blowing across the sand, the surf and then at the end of your visit a light aircraft warming up its prop before take off leaving behind the lonesome moan of a grey seal. In-between we have the raucous sound of hundreds [more like thousands] of Guillemots, Gannett’s, Black Legged Kittiwakes, Arctic Turns and Black Headed Gulls all doing what sea birds do best, which is of course make one almighty racket. Their is some light relief in the shape of young Guillemot chicks fledging, their parents calling to them from the sea as the chicks pluck up courage to leave their cliff-face nest and there you can hear the splash and the no doubt contented squawk of a parent.

All this bird clatter can become quite dizzying and I guess that is the intended effect. Far more disturbing is the cry of a grey seal, a truly unsettling sound that’s like that of a child in distress. So with the wind and the birds and the crashing waves and the seals we have a labour of love here from Mr. Riek [who I think used to go to Helgoland for family holidays]. Strange place though, no cars or bikes are allowed, no pollen either so a great place for hay fever sufferers. In 1947 the Royal Navy detonated 6,700 tonnes of explosive on it in a bid to obliterate it from the map and failing spectacularly. As a stand alone sound I feel it would have made for a rather interesting Gruenrekorder release.

You’ll find Daniel Blinkhorn in Gruenrekorder’s ‘Soundscape’ department. On Terra Subfónica he’s created 19 short-ish compositions each one dealing with the way in which we, as creatures of hearing, go about our daily routines without taking in the really interesting sounds that are going on all around us. Take for instance the way in which you may be able to hear your neighbours children playing through your incredibly thin poorly built walls. Blinkhorn recreates the event by recording his children at play, playing the results back through some speakers and recording the whole thing from a different room through a drinking glass with a contact mic attached to its base. There are 19 such examples of what Blinkhorn calls ‘sub sound’ each one a startling revelation, each one carrying with it extensive explanations of its purpose and genesis within the accompanying booklet.

There’s a sea scape tryptich the second installment of which records the sounds of a colony of hermit crabs underwater, the insides of a desktop PC where Blinkhorn takes the casing off his computer and records whats going on in there with several [no doubt highly sensitive microphones], ‘Tape Junk’  composed from the outtakes of jazz guitar recordings [big reveal - it sounds nothing like outtakes from jazz guitar recordings], ‘Sub Chron II’ a work made with clocks, ‘Voix Sous’ from whispers. And on it goes.

The results are a stunning. An embarrassment of riches. Blinkhorn not only finds delight in ‘sub sounds’, he knows how to develop them into greater things, make them even more of a delight for the listener. Dip in anywhere on this release, turn up the volume and prepare to be entranced. You might be listening to crabs scramble over each other in their underwater habitat but what you’re hearing is the gentle clack of exoskeleton, like gentle rain hitting a thin sheet of tin. The sounds culled from inside Blinkhorn’s PC become digital micro chatter, overloaded information highways. In ‘[Sub]Urban Mantra’ we find the hum of the city playing host to a powerful throb, voices come and go, distant traffic can be heard and then birds. And on it goes.

Terra Subfónica is one of the most impressive environmental sound/electroacousitc works yet to come this way. The last track is probably the best [I’m saving the best for last] ‘Place/Space Threnody’ finds Blinkhorn playing an array of instruments including the piano which are then processed, clipped edited, reworked, whatever it is he does with these sounds, until we arrive at something that sounds like a cross between Arvo Pärt, David Sylvian’s more esoteric moments and Austrian laptop/guitar dabbler Christian Fennesz. A sublime piece of work.

Blinkhorn’s CV runs to soundtrack work, installations, orchestral work, chamber orchestra, symphonies, radiophonic pieces, he’s been lauded with international prizes and his works are performed worldwide. Its a pleasure to have been introduced to him.

Helgoland comes in a printed cardboard fold out job, both releases contain excellent booklets. Quality abounds.



Lasse-Marc Riek


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