Spaceship - A Prospect of Laughton Wood
Forged River. FRCD01. CD/DL. 50 copies.
Left Hand Cuts Off Right - Axing Body
Box Records. Cassette/DL. 50 copies.
I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a flậneur, a stroller of streets, a wanderer wandering in no particular direction, the path chosen at random, by what looks interesting over there and not some predetermined spot on a map. An empty mind, a good pair of shoes, some cash for an Earl Grey when the legs begin to ache and off you go. See you in six hours. European cities in the early morning are my preference especially in spring or late autumn when the air temperature is a modest one and the streets are still and relatively quiet. Bends in the road as laid down by city forefathers are a blessing to me and a hindrance to the tourist stood at a junction with an A-Z in their hands. I feel sorry for them. Better to just wander and let your mind wander with it.
This after just returning from a two nighter in London where the flậneuring took me and Mrs Fisher to a street market in Marylebone where Uzbeki bakers vied with a paella stall and several fishmongers and the ubiquitous knock off designer shirt merchants. And the Princess Louise of course though I cant say for certain whether falling in to that particular pub was entirely accidental.
On the train back home I read Werner Herzog’s slim volume of diary entries that make up ‘Of Walking In Ice’. These entries recount the time Herzog took it upon himself to walk from his his home in southern Germany to Paris convinced that if he did so and succeeded a friend of his laying ill in bed there, wouldn’t die. That he set off in November in terrible weather making his way through the Black Forest and over the Vosge mountains with not much more than a compass, milk and tangerines for company, says something for Herzog’s own particular brand of sheer bloodymindedness. Going for a walk taken to the extreme.
On return I spied an email from a certain Mark S. Williamson regarding his work following the path of Loughton Brook, a stream in Epping Forest. Williamson walked it from source to mouth following it from steep sided forest valley through culverts and flood defences to its confluence with the River Roding. With him he took recording equipment that included a hydrophone. When he got home he turned his rough field recordings into something quite beautiful by adding piano, violin and synthy washes, what he calls ‘sparse instrumentation’.
Williamson has also recorded some [all, I’m not sure?] of his work in bi-naurual stereo, a form of listening that puts you at the very center of whats happening, so that when you hear those first trickles of water its as if the drops were falling through your skull. Binaural stereo makes me go week at the knees and its why even a standard mp3 stream of A Prospect of Laughton Wood sounds eerily lifelike. When he introduces mordant and heavy piano chords the scene is set for a journey that eventually finds human life, dog walkers, schoolkids and with it conversation and then heavy traffic and then the rattle of trains on rhythmic tracks. When all this instrumentation comes together in the final track your realise that your own journey through this work has been a largely melancholy and sad experience. On the last track the drifting away violin and the lugubrious chords of the piano are replaced by the squawks of birds and the distant rumble of the M11.
I’ve not listened to an ‘environmental recording’ for quite some time but I have to admit that A Prospect of Laughton Wood has taken me by surprise. When the quality of the work is this good though I feel compelled to share it even if all I have to go on are downloads and streams. Oof. No idea what the ‘Spaceship’ moniker is all about though.
Coming from an entirely different angle but achieving the same kind of feeling is Robbie Judkins with his Left Hand Cuts off the Right project and Axing Body; ‘part of a continuing process of creating sound as therapy and a distraction for coping with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety’ as he says. ‘Craved’ is the pick of the four but all have their merit with sparse lower end white key piano notes played out to various moody synth drones.’Void of Heaven’ is soundtrack material; empty motels and dirty swimming pools, blinking neons and desert panoramas. The title track contains scraping violin and a tripping over itself keyboard motif. Not sure it would work as walking material but as for therapy I’m hoping it does the trick. Worked for me.
Left Hand Cuts Off Right