The magnificent The Spiral Staircase, also on Allon Kaye’s ever-puzzling imprint, had been the last album by Esther Venrooy to enthral this reviewer. The pragmatic sorceress is now back with a shorter, but still meaningful work based on the sounds emitted by harboured cargos. The composer relates her interest to a childhood recollection, according to which the cyclical echoes of chugging boats from a nearby marine area were transported by the wind to the place where she was living. The evocative power of this sonic collage – originally born for a 2008 installation in Brooklyn – is inspiring, showing once again that an artist’s receptivity is an inborn gift, nothing that can be accomplished with mere practice or technical know-how.
And yet it takes a serious revision of all the acoustic characters of a certain zone – and its inhabitants, either human or mechanical – to bring those reminiscences to life under the form of concrete snapshots (the creaking noises of the ships, the washing of the water), submarine suggestions, subsonic droning and what the ears perceive as electronically generated feedback. There will never be a rational explanation about the successful (or less) engraving of a piece like this in a listener’s memory. It mostly depends on the level of affinity of our early experiences with those of the designer, which in this particular case is partially coincident. The reverberations of a small seaport have in fact defined almost half of my summers, and some of the swishing continuums heard in the record’s final third recall the faraway rebounds of passing trains at night, another regular incidence in your reporter’s adolescence. Join the above mentioned traits with the tremendous mental rubdown administered by the throbbing lows originating from the massive humming of underwater engines. Venrooy’s specialist selection of the frequency configurations throughout this perfectly conceived chain of aural scenarios represents the current diagram of a talent that shows no sign of lassitude.