Lawrence English + Stephen Vitiello: Fable
I have no idea whether Lawrence English and Stephen Vitiello intended for the material on Fable to be so geographically evocative, but it's evocative nonetheless. And while knowing that English is a resident of Australia also might factor into my impressions, I still can't help but visualize while listening to it landscapes and wildlife associated with places like Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand (tellingly, the bio material accompanying the release notes the way English's sound work invites listeners to “explore their own narratives and impressions informed by personal histories and experiences”); certainly the cover photograph (taken by English) does nothing but bolster those impressions. At the same time, that the material conjures such associations is not meant to downplay the contributions Vitiello, an electronic musician and media artist who's currently based in Richmond, Virginia, brought to the project.
This concise, thirty-three-minute collection resulted from three years of “intermittent audio communications.” Working with modular synthesis, processing, field recordings, acoustic instruments, percussion, and electronics, the two created hazy, multi-textured set-pieces speckled with fragment traces of instruments, some recognizable and others less so. The woodsy gamelan-like tones and outdoor field recording sounds of birds, bells, and people rippling through “Over Inland” conjure the image of an exotic and mysterious land, one, yes, rather fable-like, a kind of imaginary locale collectively suggested through the accumulation of sonic details originating from the physical world. The glassy timbres dotting the rhythmic churn of “Forecast the Dawn” call to mind the scene of a Buddhist temple nestled in the remote countryside bathed in the glare of the morning sun. “A Fable for the Chime” proves less easy to pin down when its sound design includes gamelan tones and bird chirps as well as guitar-like shadings and synthesizer flutter.
In those moments where a particular sound comes into clear, identifying focus (e.g., the synthesizer swooping through “Encased in Blue Marble”), it extricates itself from the mass and becomes a primary focal point. But more often than not, the resultant piece registers as an electro-acoustic construction so rich in detail and layers that it functions more as a restlessly mutating whole than as a conglomeration of individual elements.