How I love when a release teaches me something new, not only in terms of internal movement but also – as in the case of this concise work – about uncontaminated sites I would not mind dying in. Dan Powell, a long-time visitor of Cuckmere Haven (Sussex), decided to employ perceptions and actual souls affiliated to that glorious geographic area for sonic art purposes.
Meeting instances of electronically enhanced landscapes without at least a couple of yawns is pretty difficult these days. I’m glad to report that Powell didn’t manage to justify that reaction. At Cuckmere is cleverly conceived and effective, improving a listener’s aural and, why not, mental position in just over 23 minutes.
“A Walk To The Sea: Exceat To The Coastguard Cottages” begins as a classic audio documentary: steps on the ground, organic reminiscences, echoes of local fauna. Already from the outset we detect quality, both in the recordings per se and the placing/sequencing know-how. In a matter of instants the atmosphere evolves dynamically and spiritually as earthy timbres get exquisitely integrated with an increasing number of modifications, presumably courtesy of Powell’s electronic setup. The artlessness we had grown used to at the start is now mildly polluted by misshapen duck-ish voices, toneless expirations, throbbing low tones and inherent choirs of frequencies, the original materials morphed into ghosts of altered resonance. This riveting sequence culminates in the sudden disappearance of the stranger sounds, the concrete substances alone again… naturally (well, almost).
“Cable Hut 14” sees a prominent percussiveness dominating the scene. Here, too, Powell’s educated use of his twist-and-stretch arsenal of impairment transforms rather straightforward, if a little violent events into a form of awkward pragmatism. It’s the kind of place where one can still remain positively stunned by the countless facets of an acoustic world that ultimately constitutes our last resort after all the pseudo-intellectual rubbish ends – as it should – in the cesspool of ignorance. An inevitable conclusion when you’re killing the self surrounded by marine wonderment.
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