At the Heart of it All is a significant departure from where Dave Phillips began in Fear of God. That was a grindcore band back in the late ’80s, as raucous as one would expect. But his solo work on At the Heart of It All comes down from all of the aggression of the hardcore scene for a collage of found sounds out of the Amazon. The two 35 minute tracks on this release were collected by Phillips during his time near Chuallacocha, where he let his microphones record whatever sounds of the wildlife surrounded him. Simply organized and layered, At the Heart of It All features no manipulation of the various calls, and instead allows them to blend together for a cacophony of natural harmony. The disc comes with a short essay from Phillips on the transformative nature of this experience as well, explaining the reasoning behind the title.
The two tracks are split in two; “Dawn Until Dusk” gathers the sounds of the Amazon during the day, and “Dusk Until Dawn” collects them during the night. Both have familiar concepts – there’s an overwhelming amount of insect chirruping throughout both, and squawks from birds are fairly normal as well. In a way, these tend to form a wall of shrill cries throughout both tracks, allowing Phillips to layer calls of monkeys and frogs in the background to add variation.
At the Heart of It All switches off and on; the listener sometimes feels like they’re simply listening to a chorus of cries in the wild, and then all of the sudden Phillips collage will morph into an interesting loop of animal calls that form a rhythmic base. These moments are staggered throughout the album, and most likely not intentional; it is the audience who pulls the meaning out of insect sounds, and these are great experiences.
It’s certainly not a CD you’ll want to listen to all of the time; the found sound format, along with the relatively sparse editing, means that At the Heart of It All is best used as a relaxation soundtrack. Even so, I’d recommend “Dusk Until Dawn” over “Dawn Until Dusk” because the intensity of the insects becomes harsh over time. Still, if nature sounds are your thing, or if found sound interests you in any way, At the Heart of It All‘s composition is more than just heading to the zoo to listen to the animal buzz.