CD Reviews

Tarab – Shards of Splinters – Fragments of Scratches/Killustiku Killud – Kriimude Killud

March 13, 2013

CD
Semper Florens

The subtitle of the website belonging to Tarab, AKA the Australian sound artist Eamon Sprod reads “careful arrangements of sonic rubbish”. This description describes his work well, and at the same time goes some way to point towards what I enjoy most in field recording work these days- the careful arrangement of found sounds. I’ve just about lost all interest in field recording as documentation. Unless (as is rare these days) the found sounds are particularly unusual or interesting, what I have come to enjoy is composition more aligned to musique concrete, in which material gathered via field recording is spliced together to create new music again. There are certain techniques and reccurring patterns even in this form of composition (as with most areas of music) that are far from original, but there seems, to me at least, to be much more potential life and vibrancy to be found in music of this kind. Sprod has been making music of this kind for a fair number of years now, but his output is slow when compared to many working in this area. His albums, of which this is (I think) his fifth full length solo are a long time in the making. There is clearly a lot of “careful arrangement” taking place in Tarab’s work, and it sounds all the better for it. With a few exceptions, the raw materials used on Shards of Splinters – Fragments of Scratches/Killustiku Killud – Kriimude KilludĀ were all recorded during a brief residency at the MOKS organisation in Estonia back in 2008, but the three compositions here that grew out of them were three years in the making.

The sounds then are quite varied, perhaps an even mix between familiar, identifiable sounds and more abstract scraping, crashing and groaning. We hear weather sounds in there- the wind, rain hitting metallic sounding surfaces etc, and we hear one or two of the inevitable list of sounds that seem ubiquitous to modern field recording work, children at play, birds twittering etc, but its the way the sounds are tied together into little knots of tension and drama that make this album for me. The first of the three pieces builds slowly, gathering crashing metallic sounds in a large resonant space together with crunching sounds, slithering textural rushes and other more identifiable environmental sounds into steady waves of layered collage. These move slowly, their viscosity building gradually until suddenly stopping dead just when you don’t expect it, just as the densely packed storm of sounds seems to be leading to something more calamitous. The second piece is a much calmer, and considerably shorter affair, again with sounds laid across one another, so birdcalls peer through light droning pitches, chugging engines and murkily captured, unintelligible conversation, but again the elements work well together, the different weights and textures of the various sounds offsetting one another to produce a balance in the music that has not been stumbled across by accident. The third, sixteen minute track follows in similar fashion, but with a strong sense of foreground and background at play. Deeper, slower, darker drone sounds providing a bed for mostly nameless scratching, crackling and fizzing leaping forward from the speakers, and even one very loud explosion standing out midway through.

The acid test for me with music like this, is how much does it sound like a collection of field recording extracts, and how much does it feel like a solid, fluid composition with a sense of narrative. If as a listener I find myself engaging with the music as a living, breathing piece of work then the only way that the source materials come into play is when I sit down to try and write about what I am hearing, what the constituent elements involved in the piece are. Shards of splinters works really well for me as such an example of organic composition. Like the middle period work of John Wall, carefully chosen and edited sounds have been pieced together over a long period of time to create what has ended up sounding really quite fluid and natural. Excellent work.

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