Compilations / Mixes
The Fatigue of Sunlight and Wine
It would be easy to lump Map 165 in amongst the general category of ambient soundscaping; however, The Fatigue of Sunlight and Wine, the first formal release by UK duo Tim Hooper (guitars, samples) and Martin A. Smith (electronics, keyboards, samples) under the Map 165 moniker suggest that doing so would underappreciate key things that distinguish their approach from others. True, like many of their genre brethren, the two assemble their tracks using field recordings, samples, found sounds, live electronics, and looping. But whereas much ambient music inhabits a generic, decontextualized zone that features field recordings severed from their origins, the ten pieces that compose The Fatigue of Sunlight and Wine all root themselves in clearly defined locales. Field recordings are thus not included for purely ornamental purposes but rather as central components of the tracks. Furthermore, whereas many an ambient piece treats field recording details as secondary or supplemental to the musical elements, in a typical Map 165 production the musical and sampled parts are equally critical to the piece in question. A good illustration of the approach arises in “It Was the Nightingale,” where a gentle swirl of ambient tones whistle alongside real-world sounds recorded at an Arles hotel and church bells from Tarascon.
“The Light Burnt Open” does seem to literally burst open, given the flashes of blinding light (guitar-generated, presumably) that punctuate the opening track. With sampled material taken from the hills above St Remy de Provence, the setting acts as a dramatic scene-setter for the album as a whole. While Hooper's guitars are a prominent element (never more so than the lilting acoustic within the closing “The Colours Hurt My Eyes”), other instrument sounds appear, too, such as the heavily processed piano playing that's central to the shimmering soundworld of “The Sunshine Slumbered Among the Roses.” The listener's experience of the album is also enhanced by track-related information accompanying each piece. While many of the samples were recorded by the group in and around the town of Tarascon, the duo also provide track-by-track details that connect each piece to a particular setting. We learn, for example, that the plaintive, strings-laden “Fallen From the Wounded Day” includes field recordings gathered at the fountain in the Espace Van Gogh in Arles, and that “Across the Dome of the Scalded Sky” incorporates announcements recorded at Nimes airport.
Interestingly, though the duo aspired to create an album experience that would evoke the intense heat of a Mediterranean afternoon, they undertook the physical album production within a cool inner room inside a converted 15th-century convent at the south of France. That said, an epic track such as “The Smell of Dust” burns with a smoldering intensity that more suggests sweat-drenched humidity than winter frost. A refreshingly concise recording at forty-five minutes, The Fatigue of Sunlight and Wine makes a compelling argument on behalf of the Map 165 project, especially when each piece gives the impression of having been methodically considered and meticulously assembled.