Seren Ffordd: Arhythmia

As a follow-up to its earlier release of Seren Ffordd's Stellar Nurseries, Hypnos continues to re-issue work by the Wales-based ambient sound sculptor with the release of the out-of-print 2005 recording Arhythmia. It makes good on its wish to explore rhythms and movements that are heard and feltóthough not of the dance-based but of the more fundamental kind, like those of the planets and tides and of the body's inner workings, that are threaded throughout our lives in ways of which we're often unaware. Ffordd could exploit such movements to create a relaxed and hypnotic dream-like work but instead opts for a much more unsettling one that features turbulent episodes as a counterweight to the expected calming ones. The sound sources (all acoustic) used for the seventy-one-minute piece include field recordings (rain and thunder) and singing bowls, voice, gourds, and chimes (effects and sound manipulations executed using a Korg D16 digital portastudio).

After rain drizzle and thunder introduces the five-part work, the rain sounds persist throughout the first part while the thunder recedes and is replaced by intermittent rumbles. Though the collective sound is pitched at a low level of intensity, there's nevertheless a wealth of detail on display at any given moment. The second part follows without interruption, the change signified by the disappearance of the rain and the advent of a series of downward spiraling tones that gradually swell in number and volume. Adding to that density, rippling percussive accents, wind-like swirls, and ghostly moans appear in turn as the intensity steadily builds throughout the part's fifteen minutes. In a move that echoes the transition between the opening tracks, the change from two to three occurs when the former's ominous sound mass is supplanted by bell strikes (the singing bowls and chimes, presumably) whose prolonged reverberations fill the spaces between them. The fourth initially focuses exclusively on natural soundsórumbles and whooshesóbefore faint, wavering musical figures appear in the distance. Though the sonic design differs from part to part, there's similarity in the way each builds gradually, growing ever denser and fuller as the part in question unfolds, and the recording comes full circle when the final chapter reintroduces the rain drizzle and rumbles of the opening part.

January 2011