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Naturestrip, 2003, NS3001

"This is a journey into sound."

If we can bypass for a while the cheesy ambient chillout connotations and po-mo irony that the phrase invokes, then we can consider that this is indeed what surfacedrift is. Not a "psychedelic" journey, enhancing some sort of altered state, but a carefully guided journey into focussed and attentive listening. These are pieces recorded and mixed with an ear that obviously delights in the textural complexities and aural subtleties of our everyday soundworld. Environmental recordings of the likes of open fires, rainstorms, birdsong and ocean waves are amplified, layered and re-contextualised to form the basis of the mixes of these tracks. Sonic minutiae are repositioned and foregrounded into new and sharper juxtapositions. Regular dynamic and volume relationships are altered–askew. There is a feeling of being drawn into a familiar soundspace, but at the same time reverberant spaces and aural cues seem slightly disorienting, perspectives are shifted and blurred.

Favourable and well-deserved comparisons have already been made with the structured field recordings of Chris Watson’s Weather Report and Francisco Lopez’ La Selva. This is high praise indeed as these CDs (the latter especially for me) are classics of this genre. However what sets this work apart from other purely environmental collages/remixes is the way that these environmental recordings are layered and offset with the improvised playing of found objects. It is here that Tarab’s (Eamon Sprod) live performance techniques intersect with his mixology. In performance Sprod performs using a variety of materials such as rocks, leaves, scrap metal and glass as his sound sources. Using techniques such as rubbing, scraping or dragging he is able to generate a wide palette of textures and rhythmic impulses in much the same way as that most unheralded of sound practitioners, the foley artist. Here however, these foley-style gestures are not aimed at reinforcing the believability of visual imagery or to sync action with sound, but to enhance and subtly focus the environmental recordings. They are mixed so that it is often impossible to tell what is played and what is environmental sound. The intention is not to draw attention to any distinction between performed or environmental sound–the two combine synergistically, complimenting and reinforcing each other to produce a familiar yet hyper-real soundspace. Definitely a journey into sound worth taking.

Tim Catlin

RealTime issue #0 pg.

© Tim Catlin; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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