CD Reviews

Thursday 14th January

January 14, 2011

fire_and_frost_patternHome very late tonight, midnight in fact after spending the evening eating a rather nice meal cooked by my better half. I have committed to writing a review every day for a little while though, so I will do just that. I spent the day listening at various times to Fire and Frost pattern, a CD by Andreas Bick released quite recently on the Gruenrekorder label. This is one of those CDs which I don’t get my hopes up too high for before listening, for probably quite irrational reasons. Firstly, I really don’t like the sleeve design one little bit, but that’s a taste thing. Then I note from the back sleeve that the music has been entered, and subsequently won several “sound art” prizes. This is certainly not a good sign! Then, reading the extensive liner notes, the music is made to sound as much like an audio equivalent of a National Geographic article than simply some interesting music. Details are given about where each sound on the two pieces here were found and how they were recorded. probably a little too many details really.

There are two pieces here then, each lasting around the twenty-six minute mark. Named Fire Pattern and Frost Pattern, the two are derived from sounds involving the two extremes of temperature. The Fire track utilises recordings of volcanoes, geyser activity, and ignited alcohol vapour alongside some kind of ‘gas burning in a test-tube’ activity. The sounds are then collaged together to create the piece. Similarly, Frost Pattern uses seismic recordings of iceberg induced earthquakes, cracking ice, “sizzling” ice and apparently the sound of snowflakes falling onto a sheet of aluminium foil hooked up to contact mics. The question then, given that we have a wild array of unusual and nicely recorded sounds here, is does all of this come together to make convincing music or are these sounds best considered as some kind of science experiment?

Well its patchy, but often it is possible to forget the origin of the sounds and let the musicality of the compositions work. The Frost track, the second here is decidedly more interesting than Fire Pattern, perhaps because the sound of cracking, straining and hissing ice is that much more detailed and a wider range of sounds appear than in the rushing, heaving explosions that exist in the Fire track. They are also somehow more musical sounds. Although the semi-regular explosive elements of the volcanic eruptions in the first piece form a kind of structure and rhythm that the groans and hisses of the other fiery elements work well with, the Frost track feels more like the music I normally listen to, more textural and grainy, a mix of little shards of prickly sound and larger, booming groans.

This isn’t a bad CD at all then, its listenable and in places the detail and sheer incredibility of the sounds made by nature and man’s intervention with it are fantastic. There is an air of art establishment to it all though that comes through in the music here and there as the composition does feel a little tame, sounds placed almost politely beside each other rather than really brought together with a bang to see what occurs. Beyond the probable dangers of trying to record gas flames trapped in glass bottles etc, It doesn’t feel all that risky music, and its origins as a presentation on a German cultural radio station, together with all those sound art awards do seem to get in the way of my enjoyment as the music feels more like a series of neatly arranged science experiments presented as music rather than anything more raw and sensual. Still, an interesting and on occasion quite awe-inspiring set of recordings that will be of interest to those interested in the documentation of natural phenomena as much as anyone into experimental music.

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