Still suffering somewhat today. I’ve been out and about all over the place as the day went by and although I have generally taken things slow my eyes and body are showing the strain again tonight, and as I have to be up at six for work again in the morning I am going to try and keep tonight’s review brief. I know, I always say that… lets see if I can this time around.
Actually the CD I have been listening to is one that probably only requires a brief review anyway. I say this not because the music is insubstantial in any way, but rather because the music is quite simple in its structure and content, and because if there is a lot to discuss about the way it was made, or the reasons for which it was made, then this isn’t clear. So we are left to just listen to the sounds on the CD and take them for what they are.
The CDr in question is Richard Kamerman’s recent release on the Engraved Glass label named Changes.txt. Now, before I had heard this collection of four pieces, and before I had read the track titles or the short description of the work at the label’s website, I had, simply because of the title of the album decided for myself that the music here could be audio processes of a computer text file. I don’t think this is the case though, despite my recollection of Kamerman doing something like this before. The note at the EG site then reads as follows:
focusing on the acoustic material offered up in one room, this recording session captures a spirit of creative field recording & focused interaction with the contained sounds and objects.
This description, coupled with the track titles, which suggest that Kamerman did not have full control over the sounds included (The second track is named In which I again try to concede authority and the third In which I accept a new potential) lead me to wonder if some kind of process was used to pull together the sounds here outside of merely using the items in a particular room to create them. The fact is, beyond the information we have, and the detail that the recordings were all mace in one day, we are left to make educated guesses about how this music was made, and on this occasion I admit defeat, accept that I don’t have a clue, and just choose to sit and enjoy it.
So, I hear you impatiently wonder, what does it sound like? Well across the four pieces here there is very little material in use, just a few sound sources that come and go but remain relatively consistent throughout the forty-six minute long disc. The over-riding impression is one of quiet, calm sounds; a soft, distant blurred murmur that reminds me of wind buffeting a house heard from behind the safety of thick walls, a thin high pitched shriek that could be feedback of some kind but also resembles something metal being bowed, an occasional ripple of gritty, lumpy static and the odd pop and crackle on top. Until the final two minute long track, very little happens beyond a kind of softly rhythmic pulse formed from these basic elements drifting very slowly in and out, creating a kind of tide-like, very restful pattern that changes slightly across the first three pieces, but not significantly enough to note obvious alterations. Throughout the disc, up until the final couple of minutes when a few other pops and bangs appear, we hear little else apart from the simple ingredients that give the music its simple life, and so the disc quickly turns into something very restful and calming, despite the seemingly raw and unfinished quality of the sounds used in its making.
However he has achieved it, Kamerman has succeeded in forming music that feels thoroughly naturalistic and organic, as if (as the website notes suggest) the composer’s input was akin to a field recordist’s- finding interesting sounds and then just capturing them as they are. The music doesn’t sound human, or at least doesn’t sound like it was constructed deliberately, rather that it happened naturally and was in some way captured and preserved on disc. I found this music really very easy to listen to, which is an unusual trait for me to discover in Kamerman’s music. it was a disc I found useful over the last week or two to put on in the background whilst reading and writing emails. It feels like a modern ambient music, made up of the kinds of sounds that fill our modern ways of living- industrial screeches, digital chatter and crackle and hum- sounds that we already hear and feel and recognise, reworked and placed back into our environment via this CDr, but in a manner that doesn’t assert itself, doesn’t feel like human expression. Changes.txt is in many ways a thoroughly forgettable CD, in that it feels like it doesn’t try and leave an impact on you, and its easy to almost forget it is playing, but then also herein also lies the music’s strengths and mysteries. A curious one indeed.