“Mappa Mundi” is, of course, the Latin translation of “map of the world”, a name that usually identifies maps designed in the Middle Ages. I don’t know if there is a hidden reference to the most famous one, that of the Hereford cathedral. However, Mike Harding and Mark Van Hoen gave their own interpretation of the term by aggregating sonic samples from myriads of locations they have probably visited, or worked in. Or maybe not. Needless to say, they are not detailing intentions and sources; always a positive when entrancing music mainly based on concrete materials is presented. Individual perspicacity and the intimacy with certain types of emission will be crucial.
Having not listened to Drøne’s previous releases my innocence was tested without prejudice. Until now, I only knew Harding as the chief of the Touch organization, whereas Van Hoen’s various projects are, to this day, completely unknown to me. The piece is divided into five “phases” originating a 35-minute continuum; no breaks whatsoever, just a constant flux. Several components contribute to a listener’s orientation inside the soundscape: pounding rhythms, reshaped frequencies, a variety of vocal presences (some of them in foreign jargons, elsewhere in rather anguishing, if inexplicable contexts). In a way, this sounds like a cross of real-life occurrences and signals coming from a remote place where regular timbres get altered to great extents. The impression is that of a large environment gradually filled by clogging filters as the minutes elapse, but still characterized by a resonant vastness. Imagine a drunkard slumbering in an airport’s waiting hall, overhearing the acoustic wholeness surrounded by a jumble of strange echoes.
Do not be fooled into thinking that the duo’s denomination represents Mappa Mundi‘s primary constituent. Although there’s no shortage of subsonic purring, shortwave pulse and alien tones, one must pay attention to what happens under the apparent impenetrability of this blurred snapshot. In general, the elements of genuine surprise are not too many; we instantly familiarized with most everything we heard. This does not mean that the record is not good. On the contrary, it does encourage a classic “repeat to better understand” attitude, ultimately placing itself in an area of taste that may or may not include other names leisurely associable to the aforementioned Touch – in spots, CM Von Hausswolff and John Duncan came to mind – and to Jim Haynes’ The Helen Scarsdale Agency. Not bad, if you ask me.