EPs / Singles
Yann Novak: Paradise & Winchester
As a credo, the Belgian imprint Unfathomless commissions artists to create works that document their “personal fascination for specific locations, either natural, human built, or fictitious.” Sound artist Yann Novak's predictably evocative response comes in the form of a single-movement, forty-three-minute soundscape (available in 200 hand-numbered CDs) designed to capture The Las Vegas Strip, specifically a portion of Las Vegas Boulevard outside the city limits that spans the two townships, Paradise and Winchester, and where the majority of casinos and tourist activity are located. Created in late 2011, the work was assembled from ten recordings collected over a three-day period, after which Novak digitally transformed the material so as to incorporate his reaction to the location.
A rich tapestry of real-world sounds—police sirens, speaking voices, crowd noise, etc.—resonates through the piece's opening minutes, with the musical element a rumbling drone that gradually moves from the periphery to a more central position within the total sound mass. What keeps the listener engaged is the way Novak continually re-shapes the sound, at some moments treating the field recordings elements as the focal point and at other times having the ambient cloud mass dominate. In certain moments, the real-world sounds recede entirely and cede the spotlight to the vaporous whorls that gently billow and the soft, organ-like tones that shimmer. Around the twenty-seven-minute mark, the material even starts to take on a Tangerine Dream-like quality, as if Novak had got his hands on a mellotron and, using multi-tracking, quadrupled its ethereal sound. Things come full circle as the piece enters its final minutes, with the rumbling drone re-emerging, as if to suggest the tremors occurring immediately beneath the tourists' feet.
Transitions occur gradually and fluidly, which adds to the rather hallucinatory effect the recording has on the attentive listener. To its credit, Paradise & Winchester offers an engrossing alternative to how one typically finds Las Vegas represented, which is as a semi-decadent cavalcade-cum-cornucopia of hotels, lounge acts, casinos, and shows.