ramsdale stones

ramsdale stones

Sunday, 10 August 2014

THE BLACK PATH


Now they're all but gone, but at the time I had two marvellous blisters over my Achilles tendons. I've worn those boots many times in the past, but on this trek for some reason they decided to carve away at the skin, maybe a reflection of the environment we were walking through, which was nothing if not scarred. The surface of the land lay gouged and pitted where it had been scraped and scoured away by the demands of industry, an industry that was itself predicated on an ever expanding consumerist culture.



The route known as The Black Path cuts through a dystopian architecture of pipes, furnaces, coke ovens and brutalist deadspace like a green river. It follows alongside the railway line from Middlesborough to Redcar. Named after the soot from the blast furnaces that was discharged onto it, workers in the past would use it as an access route to the ship yards and steel foundries on foot or bicycle. These days it forms a dilapidated corridor through a wasteland of toxicity where nature is once again gaining a foothold.




I walked with my good friend Gavin Parry to assess the sounds of this striking environment by way of research. Something sputtered steam rhythmically behind a fence like a pressure release valve. Silent small fish moved in tiny shoals through standing water beneath a graffiti covered wall. Evidence of cable stripping lay in a concrete tunnel where the discarded insulation formed dead vines.


We attached contact mics to a railside fence and heard the grass tapping the wire. A passing train made the wire scream with agitation. Butterflies were constantly rising and settling on the grass around the path, and we found a mysterious tree, we thought possibly an olive? We ate chip butties seated on plastic chairs by a major road close to an abandoned railway station, where the act of copulation featured heavily in line drawings.


The walk ended on a bridge and a plaque told the sad story of a Lancaster bomber shot down by friendly fire and the young lives lost.

I have now purchased some new boots.



Monday, 31 March 2014

WHARRAM PERCY




Wharram Percy is a deserted medieval village site on the western edge of the chalk wolds in North Yorkshire. Its church, dedicated to St. Martin, nestles in a valley, roofless and surrounded by memorials of the dead. On this near windless January day little else moved but the reeds in the fish pond and the gently whispering ivy still clinging to the winter trees.  

On the grassy bank above are the outlines of peasant dwellings and the Norman manor house. First settled in prehistoric times, Wharram flourished as a village between the 12th and 14th centuries, before final abandonment in about 1500.

This recording was made in the shallow water at the edge of Wharram Percy fish pond where beetles swam around in the forests of submerged water plants at the base of the reeds.



Saturday, 22 February 2014

PHOTOGRAPHS OF LIVING METAL PLANTS

These photographs are of one of the metal plants in my own private collection.

Threadturnium boltii

The Northallerton Nut and Bolt plant produces fruiting bodies that gradually work their way up threaded stems until ready to pop off the top when ripe.

Predation by Spanner Weevils, which unscrew and eat the fruits before they are ripe, has caused a serious reduction in numbers. It is now registered officially as an endangered species.

The specimen pictured here has been grown in an empty can which helps to provide supplementary aluminium to the roots. If grown in a domestic setting, certain sounds played regularly to the plant will greatly enhance its strength and vitality. By placing a speaker at either side of the specimen (ideally they should be equidistant and no more than two feet away) the sound produced will acoustically create a very favourable growing environment. A scientifically constructed recording of these sounds is available to purchase as a limited edition 3" CDR, or as a free download from the link at the bottom of this page.

Also included in the download is FLORA METALLICUM BRITANNICA, a complete guide to all the thirty known British species of metal plants. It is fully illustrated and contains details of growing conditions, natural history and common pests of these fascinating organisms.

Threadturnium boltii immediately prior to ejecting one of its fruiting bodies

The exact moment that the fruiting body is ejected into the air




Tuesday, 1 October 2013

PHRAGMOCONE

I've got a new track coming out soon on  the Autumn 2013 framework radio seasonal CD alongside lots of other artists using sound as paint on a canvas of silence, so keep an eye out for that.

Artists

Petra Kaps
Sawako
David Velez
Slavek Kwi
Eric La Casa
Mathieu Ruhlmann
Tessa Elieff
Kim Walker

The whole thing is being put together as we speak by Patrick McGinley at framework radio.

This is the artwork for my track phragmocone.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

RIVERSIDE LISTENING


A railway bridge crosses the Murk Esk just before it joins the Esk at this graceful meander
In response to an open invitation to contribute to Riverside Listening by the four artists of the Working the Tweed project (visual artist Kate Foster, writer Jules Horne, choreographer Claire Pen├žak and composer James Wyness), I planned to go out on the afternoon of World Listening Day (July 18th) to visit and document the nearest junction of two streams. This would be close to the village of Grosmont, North Yorkshire. Here the small Murk Esk joins the River Esk where the larger river makes a hairpin bend on its way to the sea at Whitby. 


The Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)


The bridge over the Murk Esk is a listed building. A train can be heard crossing it in the accompanying recording.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, things did not go exactly as planned. I had to change my shift at work because a new computer was going to be delivered on the 18th. We had to ensure someone was in the house all day as they don't give you a delivery time. Then all of a sudden the product flashed up as 'no longer available' on the actual day it was supposed to come! So I spent World Listening Day listening for a delivery van which never came, then listening to a disinterested girl tell me how sorry the company was for any inconvenience caused. Bah!






Determined to be a part of Riverside Listening I went on the gorgeous, sunny morning of 19th July (a day late) to the meeting of these two rivers, which was not as easy to get to as I had hoped due to barbed wire enhanced fences and padlocked gates put there by the local fishing club. In the end I found a way to sneak down to the waterside via a gap in a fence at the local sports field.

This beautiful confluence of water was documented using recordings taken both in and around the river and made into a single track.The accompanying photographs were also taken on the day.

Friday, 28 June 2013

STEETLY MAGNASITE R.I.P.

Top tip: When planning a field recording trip to base your next CD length release on at a site that takes an hour and a half to drive to, make sure the decaying industrial architecture in question hasn't been recently demolished.

I went to Steetly Magnasite in Hartlepool expecting to find this sort of thing...




Instead I was met with this...


Presumably because it was a danger to the public with kids swimming in the settling tanks and climbing up the rusting metal structures as well as a magnet for arsonists, the old magnesium production plant was razed to the ground and now all that's left is a desert of rubble and dust with the odd bit of rebar (as the americans call it) sticking out here and there. There is planning permission for a £100m development of 484 luxury sea-view homes on the site.

Speaking to a local chap who was walking his dog it seems demolition was only completed earlier this year with huge diggers and bulldozers pulverizing the chimneys, pools and outbuildings. Even so I managed to get some decent recordings that still somehow sounded like magnesium. The pier is still there, although you can't walk along it, and a pipeline still runs out to sea.




Top tip: Just because it's on Google Earth doesn't mean it's there in real life.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

2 X CONSUMER WASTE REVIEWS

image

Draught. MATT EARLE, JASON KAHN, ADAM SUSSMAN (Consumer Waste)

Review by Chris Whitehead

Tactility plays a big part in the Consumer Waste universe. Letter-pressed sleeves of biscuit coloured card that come in brown paper envelopes. If you are releasing something on a physical format that you can hold in your hands, you might as well make it, well, physical. These two CDs were made available at the same time last year each in an edition of 100.
In a way they both speak the same language, with different accents and with different inflections, but still recognisably the same language.

Part I. Draught

You might well expect an improvisation featuring three men all playing electronics would lead to an overblown noisefest, but not this time. Earle, Kahn and Sussman play a music that is not defined by the space inside it, rather the space around it. Everything sounds pretty close to the ears, sometimes startlingly so. Occasionally it’s as if the vibrations are being tympanically generated or intra-cochlear in nature. Linear blips and small tides of silvery static erupt and fade, as if the musicians are trying to squeeze their tones through a tight conduit: A beam reaching out through space, highly focused and concentrated, but prone to leakage and disruption. Anything escaping is lost like a decaying particle and flickers to zero mass in the outlying darkness.

The two tracks comprising Draught last around twenty minutes each and are nameless. No meaning or reference is implied, although a compass on the cover suggests navigation, distance, direction, magnetism, attraction, positioning and precision. At points real physical activity seems to occur and then abruptly vanishes, but these recordings of movement and found sound are mere outliers to the electrical flow, which remains directed and concise.

During the second track the beam widens and becomes more disturbed. Squalling frequencies and frazzled circuits become evident. Periods of stuttering static and a falling, low resonance that refuses to disperse begins an unravelling of the music’s core. More leakage. More distance. Bristling ticks of static over bell like tones. Is this evidence of attack from outside or decay from inside? It ends on what might be a distorted communication from areas and entities unknown.

sarahh

The Good Life. SARAH HUGHES, KOSTIS KILYMIS
(Consumer Waste 2012)


Review by Chris Whitehead

Part II. The Good Life

Fossils and Things (27:07). Open and clean, with clear air between the sounds that you can walk through (or a cat could walk through at least). Sarah Hughes’ playing of zither and mosquito alarm mirrors her physical art: Installations of objects strategically situated in empty, reflective, light filled rooms. She waits for the moment and places a note or some other event into the work. Once again, as in Draught, the space around this music is immense.

Kostis Kilymis stretches a gossamer backdrop of micro-undulating sound behind the poignant gestures of Hughes. Working extensively with feedback in galleries as well as in live music creation, Kilymis offers a glistening, textured surface of approximately the same finely grained roughness as the cardboard sleeves these releases are packaged in.

The track begins with crackles, much as Draught does, then delicate string vibrations, tap like drips, then silence. A high lonesome field forms a canvas on which glassy drops fall, the tick tick tick of a pulse. Subtle, metallic sounds like bowed metal. Quiet. Quiet.

Pussy Riot (23:55). Poised and delicate, Kilymis broadcasts his translucent background radiation beneath Hughes’ plucked notes. They fall across the surface and leave telltale marks in the mind. This duo has a coherence and a complimentary single vision, otherwise beautiful pieces like Pussy Riot would never evolve.

All four of the tracks from these two seperate CDs can be listened to in any order without the listener having to learn a new language. That isn’t to say they have the same things to say, just that there is a commonality of means and execution. Two excellent releases.
I just hope Sarah didn’t get back from the recording session to find her house full of mosqitoes.

*image courtesy of Fluid Radio

Consumer Waste website