Monday, April 21, 2014
Toshiya Tsunoda/Manfred Werder - detour (Erstwhile)
Miura Peninsula, where much of this astonishing release was recorded, isn't all that far from Tokyo (the other recording site) but seems, from a perusal of Google maps, to have a decent amount of wooded, open areas. What hits the listener immediately is a real submergence in that environment, a sense of the surrounding air having an almost liquid quality; you're very conscious of it as a medium through which sound travels. But that's just one aspect. Tsunoda writes, "by recording various layers such as our directions of eyes, our thoughts, our orientation toward the place". Those things, the "orientation" of Tsunoda and Werder are somehow manifested in a truly striking manner, very personal, a real sense of existing, hyper-consciously in this place or, rather, in these multitudes of overlapping places as that's the other clearly apparent thing: the extraordinary weaving together of sounds from some vast set of experiences. It's quite difficult to isolate these elements. On the one hand, there's a strong sense of composition but, on the other, everything is so seamless that you can almost will yourself to believe the sounds were recorded as we hear them. For the first 40 minutes (out of 67) especially, there's a kind of commonality--not really the dynamics, which fluctuate a bit (though not drastically), more a subtle tone that permeates everything, uniting the parts in a way that's more or less subconscious. Like a palette that uses a range of colors, yet one in which all lie within a certain tonal spectrum (the photograph of leaves on the pine needles has something of this quality). Ridiculous to single out individual sounds but those deep rumbles (overhead jets?) are damned thrilling. That's another thing: the elements, essentially, are nothing you haven't heard before: birds (albeit likely different species than you've previously encountered--very beautiful), water, airplanes, scratching leaves, wind, much more. But their organization, the loving way they're arrayed and interwoven is breathtaking.
A bit past the 40-minute mark, there's a clear fade-out of the activity above and a shift into a different zone--perhaps it's simply going from the Miura Peninsula into Tokyo (the detour?). A strong, somewhat harsh electrical buzz is the main element, sounding like an exposed wire-box on a utility pole. There are still birds, but the ambiance is much more urban, the background hum of traffic seems to be present. It's more disquieting, something that, as much as I enjoyed wallowing in the fantasia of the opening section, I also appreciate greatly as, among other things, a kind of tonic, an appraisal of another reality just as (more?) real and holding a different type of fascination. Superficially, this section is a more gray and monotonous (the buzz doesn't quit), but listening below the veneer agains provides an abundance of activity, like looking below the surface of a pond. There's a gradual increase in intensity right at the end at which point, unlike the previous section's fade, the sounds abruptly and startlingly cease, just snap shut.
Field recordings? Well, yes, but much, much more. A stunning construction and a fantastic recording, seemingly endless layers of depth and ways to listen.