Day in Dwarfs Capital
Craig Vear: Aud Ralph Roas'le
Packaged in gleaming silver cases (and black felt inside), these two new releases in Gruenrekorder's Field Recording Series are radically different creatures (both in CD-R format and available in fifty copies). Presented as six pieces, Craig Vear's Aud Ralph Roas'le is a relatively straightforward field recordings-based collection, while Marcus Obst's one-track outing, Day in Dwarfs Capital, is as unusual as its title suggests.
Aud Ralph Roas'le captures sounds recorded at the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and coastline throughout 2007-8 when Vear was working alongside the Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences (CEMS) at the University of Hull as an artist-in-residence and engenders a powerfully evocative sense of place through its up-close renderings of aural landscapes. In many of the pieces, identifiable natural elements—the crash of waves, creak of a boat, chirp of birds, dribble of water—help transport the listener into a specific geographical setting with relative ease. “Cayton Bay,” for instance, suggests the controlled roar generated by a waterfall or perhaps a river recorded with an extremely up-close microphone. Regardless, the piece unspools as an even-keeled mass of constantly combustible sound, in marked contrast to the setting that follows, “Bumble Wood,” where immense peaks are scaled and the intensity levels shift in extreme manner. Amidst the dominating roar of water, birds caw and squawk in “Grosmont” while a plane travels overhead and a motor engine revs. In other cases, the originating elements possess a more abstract quality, and the piece in question assumes the character of an electronically generated soundscape. Two such examples are “Filey Brigg,” which presents a stream of cricket-like click, crackle, and hiss, and especially “Spurn Head,” where tension builds to immense proportions as one braces oneself for the next Merzbow-like blast that will decimate the track's gravelly surface.A fifty-four-minute, single-track piece recorded in September 2005 in Froent Tor, DC, Marcus Obst's Day In Dwarfs Capital includes the somewhat vague and mystifying artist statement: “I am not a scientist, I am a dreamer. So one morning I awoke and got a field recording from a trip to dwarfs capital on tape.” Additional information at the label site brings more clarity to the project, or at least the locale. In the woods of the remote Froent Tor (population: 350), which is apparently renowned for its healing thermal springs, a mysterious grotto (“Fichtnergrotten”) exists where, legend has it, old dwarf-workers buried their first-born turtles, believing that doing so would incite a native goddess called Gitte to enhance the town residents' skin quality; alas, the ritual failed and so the turtles' souls are condemned to roam the grotto forevermore. In keeping with the story, the recording is likewise strange. If its source materials are natural sounds, they're of a distinctively alien kind; for all one knows, they're untreated, but they nevertheless exude a quasi-electronic and industrial character. Myriad unidentifiable sounds make up the piece, with all of them repeatedly bobbing to the ever-steady surface throughout the recording. Muffled, rustling, and whirring noises appear, some seeming object-related and others traffic-generated—perhaps the distant whooshes are trucks and cars driving past the forest site. Close listening reveals a faint industrial drone in the background and even fainter siren-like wails popping up now and then; in the thirty-ninth minute, what sounds like a blurry radio transmission emerges for a few seconds. Are the wails the cries of turtle souls in agony? Are the rustling noises indicative of their movements? No answers can be conclusively given to such questions, leaving the listener to simply take the recording's enigmatic content on its own inexplicable terms.