CD Reviews

Monday 7th February

February 8, 2011

gr78Hmm, right, so tonight’s CD is another fifty-four minute of field recordings, made outside, in the countryside, primarily around water in the Tourion region of France. The disc is a release on the Gruenrekorder label by Cedric Peyronnet that carries the somewhat unwieldy title kdi dctb 146[e]. Now, regular readers will know what I am going to say here. Yes, more hydrophones… It is probably unfair for me to single out Peyronnet’s disc here as one example of what seems to me to be an absolute deluge of similar albums over the last two or three years, but there is so much about this fifty-four minute recording, as pleasant a recording as it is, that I have heard so many times before of late. The disc contains a lot of nicely detailed recordings of rushing, trickling and torrential water, masses of birdsong, passing aircraft, the odd boat engine revving up, all nice sounds yes, but all sounds I seem to hear almost weekly on one CD or another.

I wrote a review of Eric LaCasa’s excellent W2 album for last month’s edition of The Wire. It wouldn’t be good practice for me to republish the text here, but the Herbal label have posted it up here. I mention this because LaCasa’s release is an example, and a very good one, of how field recordings can be used, layered, as with Peyronnet’s disc here, and generally thought through and composed to create music that holds a sense of narrative and drama, rather than merely presenting an audio picture of a place that sounds very beautiful, but quite frankly also sounds like a lot of other beautiful places that have appeared on CDs of late. It is unfair of me to try and suggest that Peyronnet should have attempted something different with his music, that the straight audio picture he paints, albeit one that uses layering techniques to shift from one image to another, isn’t really enough any more. I can fully understand why, if you live within, or visit a beautiful place that you would wish to capture its sounds and present them as an audio snapshot for others, far away, to enjoy. The process is in many ways no different to photography. However as we can all only look at some many photos of rivers and trees before needing something new in them to keep us from getting bored, this kind of CD of field recordings (and its not just me is it? there really is a lot of music out there like this right now?) needs something more to transcend “something pleasant to listen to” status and really begin to inspire as a piece of music that can stand repeated plays.

In places, kdi dctb 146[e] does make the hairs stand on end, such as one period when the sound of rushing water builds to a torrent that almost jumps out of the speakers before fading to a pattering of light rainfall, but overall these moments don’t come often enough for me personally. I guess the question I am raising here is one of  simple representation versus creative composition. I seem these days to need to hear the sounds pulled from the environment to be used to construct something new, material to be moulded and positioned by the composer rather than just presented as fact. To some degree Peyronnet does do this, the closing moments of the album feature a recording made (I think) on a small boat, and we hear its strained whining engine burn a single line across the recording until it is faded out for quieter, murkier sounds to bring the disc to a close. There are parts here and there that do escape the pastoral and show the composer’s signature, but they are a little too thin on the ground, and the overall sensation of the album is one of audio landscaping (Peyronnet mentions soundmapping in his brief liners) rather than composed expression.

So this is a personal thing, but unless the subject matter is truly fantastic or particularly original, I think these days I need to hear more than just nicely recorded, finely detailed sound pictures of birdsong and bubbling water. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with kdi dctb 146[e] whatsoever, it is in itself really quite beautiful, and Peyronnet’s intentions for his music probably bear no resemblance to my expectations, but I have to say that I would choose the carefully constructed drama and explosion of the LaCasa release over this one. Perhaps a decade ago, when quality portable digital recording was harder to come by, and this kind of CD didn’t seem to appear so often then I would be appreciating it far more. Perhaps these days we are just spoilt for choice.

A few dates around the country and away from London posted in the Concert Calendar. Nice to see concerts happening in Cornwall and on the West Wales coast, the net is widening… Also, the dates are confirmed for this year’s i and e Festival over in Dublin, the 13th and 14th of May. I will post details of the line up into the Calendar once they are confirmed by the organisers.

Comments (4)

  • JrF

    February 10, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Firstly I should say that I haven’t heard this release yet but I thought it might be worthwhile mentioning that Cedric does a lot of work with rivers & his excellent Taurion river website is well worth checking out:

    There are indeed a lot of hydrophone based cd’s out there now & I think there is a potential element to this situation which brings up the whole music / sound or document debate. For example one might like a certain piece of classical music & have several versions of it in ones collection – for various reasons to do with different interpretations. Well, each river is different too & although many of the sounds one can capture can appear somewhat universal it can be seen as a valid act to simply document a certain river. Over time, if one enjoys listening to hydrophone recordings, you do begin to hear subtle differences – you can tell the kind of river – the size, the general location, even the type of river bed etc. One could argue that there should indeed be a cd of the sounds of every river in the world – why not ?

    so, perhaps this release is more a document of a river (or section of) ? I imagine any documentation that goes with this cd would be helpful in that respect.

    as I said, the river blog is worth a look !

  • Richard Pinnell

    February 11, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I appreciate what you are saying here Jez, and indeed the music vs documentation debate is valid to some degree, but then I have to say, that to me, and ultimately of course this blog only present my personal thoughts, a whole load of recordings of rivers, no matter how varied or different they may be, isn’t that exciting when compared to a whole load of, say, Beethoven quartets. I have no issue with field recording, I have been a bog fan of the practice for many years, but right now it seems we are getting a lot of river/water sounds, and a bit more variety would be great. There’s a whole world out there to record!

  • Richard Pinnell

    February 11, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Now I could go back and correct the bog/big typo, but I’m going to leave it in as it seems to fit on this occasion!


  • JrF

    February 11, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    yes, I agree with that Richard & wasn’t meaning to imply that I thought you were being unfair at all. In an ideal world a library full of recordings of every river would be fascinating but there are indeed too many releases of similar material given the number of discs coming out. It’s funny isn’t it – ‘water’ based recordings of nature is what used to give field recording a bad name back in the 80’s & 90’s – all that new ageism – waves & the sounds of rivers etc. just like with pop music, things go round in circles.

Leave a Reply