Simon Whetham: location recordings

Stratified recordings from a Bristol shopping mall, the psychological effects – in the words of the composer – increased by the feeling of abandonment experienced when he visited the area: once a place where families gathered and spent their wages, now a semi-desolate building with a good number of shops out of use due to the consequences of the current economic climate. In strictly musical terms we have surely benefited from the crisis, if you think that we might have endured a compendium of babbling human masses and screaming children underlined by actual muzak (hey, someone releases records with that stuff for real). Instead, Whetham went on to record the mechanical whirring of escalators and elevators, perhaps the buzzing of the electricity, plus anything else that may be found in the recondite corners of such a mentally affecting location (most everything that flows through conduits, for example air conditioning, is a part of the equation). The more “concrete” appearances scattered along the 50 minutes – at one point, coins are thrown on the floor in a symbolic gesture evoking the wasting of money – do not hamper the often impressive streams of droning-cum-clattering materials (with quieter sections in between). Impelling from start to finish, the piece – for some unspeakable reason – appears to this writer as vaguely affiliated to Jim Haynes’ circle of sound art, engrossing aural matters whose huge reverberation is at one and the same time all-encompassing and alarming.

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