VA: 1 | Favourite Places

Audiobulb has issued many fine releases but Favourite Places, a fully-realized compilation conceived and produced with admirable care by all involved, may be the finest yet. Ten musical artists were asked to make field recordings of places that hold personal significance and then augment them with an audio component designed to capture their subjective impressions of the locales—a distillation of external and internal realities, so to speak. In most cases, artists and geographical settings are equally varied: Taylor Deupree in NY, Biosphere in Norway , RF in Japan , Aaron Ximm wandering through Varanasi 's old city near the Ganges River , and so on. Enhancing their pieces is an accompanying fold-out poster that shows written and visual information relating to each place.

One of the best pieces, Taylor Deupree's “6 a.m.,” appears first and is as lovely as his recent ROOM40 single Landing. Recorded from the back door of his Pound Ridge, NY home, the opening section focuses on the swelling chirp of insects, the second augments them with glimmering tones, and the third adds peaceful guitar shadings . Equally beautiful and as stirring as RF & Lili De La Mora's Eleven Continents is RF's “A Place for Saving,” which opens with the sounds of a peaceful forest locale not far from the Shimogamo Shrine, Kyoto and is subsequently joined by Ryan Francesconi's peaceful acoustic guitar playing and the entrancing whisper of vocalist Midori Hirano.

Each piece is notable for one reason or another. Biosphere, who recorded “Tranøy Lighthouse” at Tranøy Fyr, Northern Norway when he was attempting to make a panoramic shot of the Lofoten Islands, bookends a dreamy electronic waltz with the clatter of attacking terns. John Kannenberg documents the huge reverberance of the Great Court in the British Museum , London and places an electrical drone at its center (“The Mausoleum of All Hope and Desire”). Build travels the Robert Moses Causeway and re-imagines the trip in the form of shimmering tones and squirrelly beats (“Untitled”), and Nomad Palace pairs a campfire at his family's lakeside cottage at Long Lake with a wistful electronic song (“Northern”).

Sometimes a given field section goes on a bit too long—three full minutes of Dot Tape Dot splashing in his bathtub and another three of Leafcutter John sawing in his workshop in Hackney, East London is about twice as long as necessary in each case—but that's a relatively minor caveat. The project's producer hopes that the recording will inspire listeners to become more sensitive to the audio dimensions of their own favourite places, and the project has the potential to do so. Given the breadth and quality of this first chapter, one naturally looks forward to the surprises other artists' “audio diaries” will present on volume two.

March 2008