Angus Carlyle, Rupert Cox – Air PressureNovember 14, 2012
CD and booklet
Why do so many albums of field recordings come attached to books of writing about their creation? What is it about this area of music that seems to attract long texts to accompany the audio? Perhaps the current trend for aligning field recording with the pointless descriptor “sound art” leads to such developments. In my experience however, the more lavish the book, the longer the texts, the less interesting the music seems to be. However one release I have been playing quite a bit over the past few weeks on the Gruenrekorder label seems to defy such a rule. Angus Carlyle and Rupert Cox’s new collection of recordings from rural Japan, entitled Air Pressure comes with a sixty-two page booklet of notes, blogpost transcriptions and photographs on the recordings. The content of the booklet is pretty good, interesting notes on the rural area, the families working within it and primarily the traumas that the farmers find themselves facing as their livelihoods are gradually encroached upon by the noise and general intrusion of the nearby airport, with jets passing over every two minutes.
While the background texts are interesting, and you find yourself siding against the unstoppable destruction of the airport, and applauding Argyle and Cox for highlighting the issue, the ten tracks on the CD are what really matter with a project like this, and while recording quality here is very good, what makes the CD interesting is the content when linked back to what we learn through the booklet. Its important to note that all but the last piece here are “straight” field recordings with no editing beyond the simple selection of the track from a large archive of recordings made. While the last ten minute piece A Soundfilm brings together many of the themes and iconography from the rest of the album, nothing else here is structured, layered or edited in any compositional manner. We are presented for the most of the time with straight field recordings made on location. This then also leads me to be further surprised at how much I enjoyed Air Pressure. So often I find myself wanting the wonderful sounds people collect when field recording to be meshed together into interesting, perhaps dramatic, perhaps just beautiful compositions. Ironically, then, its perhaps the last piece here, which has been collaged together from other recordings that I like the least. Otherwise the sounds captured are all interesting enough in the context of the entire project to not only retain the interest but to inspire further thought. There is nothing here that doesn’t fit with the theme of rural life being slowly eroded, but crucially for me, there are few excerpts of birdsong, trickling water etc… when these elements do briefly appear it is in keeping with the attempt to paint a sonic picture of a particular area under threat, the sounds are here because they serve a purpose, not just because they sound good.
So we hear a lot of passing ‘planes, some of them very close overhead indeed. Yet there are also tractors, wildlife, buzzing insects, and at one point, quite brilliantly the squeal of pigs, an almost frighteningly alive sound we don’t hear often, though I did hear some great recordings of such animals earlier this year that I think will surface as part of another project some time soon. There are recordings of men at work, interrupted by aircraft, of farmyard machinery at work, interrupted by aircraft, and several of the doomed calm of the countryside areas again, interrupted by aircraft. It all makes for a nice listen, a continually changing, and crucially never really boring set of recordings that go one step further than just capturing a nice set of audio photographs, rather that they tell actively highlight a tale. Good work then, a very nice listen that gives a really good feel of its subject, and a release that has pulled me back to it a few times now.