Dave Phillips – At the Heart of It All (CD-R, Ruido Horrible/Ruido Latino)

ambient, Drone, found sound

at the heart of it all

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.

156 – Frontyard/Backyard (C40, Acid Casualty Productions)

ambient, Drone, found sound, Noise, Review

frontyard backyard

156’s Adel Souto switches up his output all the time, and on Frontyard/Backyard he opts for a found sound approach to noise. There’s continually an influence of tribal ritualism, of percussive rhythms, that flow throughout his work, and on this C40 tape, 156 utilizes the urban noise of New York City and surrounding areas as a sound source for collaged tracks.

Both tracks, “Frontyard” and “Backyard,” are sourced from outside sounds, although many of them sound intentionally played as instruments. Wind chimes are struck in a lyrical method; the sounds of subway sounds or jets in the sky become the bass rumble of the city’s drone.

“Backyard” features a few repetitive loops like a trash can lid banging over the sizzle of a sprinkler system. There’s a cat meowing in the finale of “Frontyard”; while none of the sounds 156 assembles are all that noticeable on their own, when paired in this montage of city sonics it works as a cultural assembly of everyday rituals, however bleak it comes off.

Frontyard/Backyard is worth the listen, especially given all of the time spent assembling the field recordings. For those who live in a city, it will be easy to recognize the sounds; for those who don’t, a new soundscape awaits.

Svaixt – Lo (C40, Terror)

ambient, found sound, Noise, Review

svaixt lo

Svaixt offers up three tracks (or parts, as they are referred to by track titles) of found sound gleaned from travelings to the Tibetan land of Upper Mustang, a difficult place to reach that is very enlightening to the individual. This cassette comes packaged in an orange silk-screened bag, along with a pamphlet of photographs and liner notes explaining the origin of the sounds on each track along with the overall experience of being in Upper Mustang.

With Lo, the package is more important as a whole than simply listening to the tape; the liner notes give context to the noises on the tape, and thanks to the last page of the pamphlet, we’re told exactly what makes up each part of the tracks. There are bell dings, low murmers of voices, windy flappings, rushing water, and the drone and hum of prayer. Each track has moments of interest, but overall Svaixt collects various found sounds without curating them into cohesion.

Thus, Lo is sometimes a frustrating listen. The flapping of a flag gives interesting texture, as do drones of prayer. But Svaixt also forces us to sit through tape hiss and relative silence; this might be hypnotic or symbolic in person, but as a listener it just feels like silence. That’s where the liner notes come in to add some depth to what the tracks offer.

However, it often feels like we as a listener are simply listening to the travels of someone else. The aura of the experience is missing from the audio recording; it might have been enlightening to experience, but listening to it secondhand loses some of the luster.