Martin Clarke: Rural Route No. 3
Standard Form

Alex Durlak: Rural Route No. 4
Standard Form

Listeners new to Standard Form's Rural Route series could be forgiven for imagining the three-inch discs to be different artists' acoustic evocations of the countryside. The releases are, however, anything but variations on a singular bucolic theme; instead, the series purposefully opposes genre-associated limitations and encourages the artist in question to personalize each installment with a particular experimental approach. Standard Form describes the concept as "a snapshot or journal entry, representing a time or place directly associated with the music, a sort of memento marking a particular notion or feeeling the artist occupied at that time." The series launched impressively with releases by Damian Valles and Kyle Bobby Dunn, and now presents two more chapters (both in limited editions of 150 copies) that couldn't be more contrasting.

Martin Clarke's contribution to the series presents eight uncluttered field recordings pieces made in Shetland in December 2006. The London, UK-based sound artist and filmmaker generally lets the field recordings speak for themselves, rather than treat them as a decorative adjunct to musical materials. As a result, each resonant setting offers a pure portrait of a particular place, with gusts of wind, steely drones, and percussive micro-clatter capable of situating the listener within imaginary locales. One track suggests the ping of a wire banging against a shack in some desolate outback, while the creak, scrape, and howl of sounds elsewhere are equally capable of evoking real-world settings. 

Catalyst, the fourth recording in the series, arrives courtesy of Standard Form head Alex Durlak. Executed in a single take, it's a twenty-one-minute improvisation that involved Durlak sampling and processing the electric guitar in real time using granular synthesis patches, resulting in a rippling slab of multi-layered shudder and controlled wail. The material at times swells into a groaning colossus and at others morphs into a ghostly apparition of haunted design. Given that it was recorded “at the tail end of a bleak winter,” it's fitting that a nightmarish, even deranged quality permeates the material. Think of it as uneasy listening that should be played at maximum volume for the full impact.

September 2010