I've just recently received the latest Tetsu Inoue project, a collaboration effort with Charles Uzzell Edwards and Daimon Beail. This album acts as a well-behaved, albeit obviously psychedelic, tour guide. Audio's preliminary recordings originate all the way back to the period that is commonly referred to as Fax's 'Golden Years' of 1994-95. Environmental recordings, naturally saturated with many sound sources and audible illusions, were first collected in various locations around San Francisco. They were then brought into the studio for further processing and musical integration. What I like about this disc is the brisk pace it keeps, with new sounds almost constantly channeled into the mix, there is little 'waiting' and a whole lot of complex sound field collage going on. Audio contains mostly shorter 4-minute pieces instead of the long-duration epics often associated with Faxlabel releases. While preserving this multidimensional approach, the creators of Audio 'keep it moving' without sacrificing subtlety. It remains an accessible Environmental Ambient presentation even as totally unfamiliar sounds keep you guessing at what it is you're hearing. With all this said, I can confidently recommend this healthy release and I've immediately placed it on my list of Top 10 ambient releases of 2000 so far. This is the first Inoue disc to come out on the Faxlabel in years, and needless to say fans of releases such as Slow and Low or Ambiant Otaku are in for a special treat. These are songs within songs....
SFO Downtown - A piece that gives us an overview of the downtown area. An airport intercom broadcasts a final boarding call while the hustle and bustle of travelers saturates the listening area. The next segment in this short series of field recordings features some vocals from a street musician sounding like an exquisite cross between Popeye and a Tuvan throat singer. The music plays and he continues on with a somewhat subdued exuberance that tells a story all its own. Following this, we proceed to a beach where children are playing in the sand and squealing with delight while the waves are washing up on shore with their incessant natural rhythms.
Haight + Cole - Here we're starting off right away with some cycling globular pads, obviously produced from reaching deep into Inoue's bag of textural sweets. These vibrations quietly reawaken a sound that seems to have been dormant for far too long. The sympathetic layers deliver a moment of pleasant contemplation before turning a few shades darker at the 2-minute mark. A passing storm cloud perhaps? Overhead a collage of what could be DSP-smears of seagull cries seeps into the mix as we return to the reverse-sounding synth pads and random conversational drift.
Tenderloin - A slowly dribbling synth weave and a pulsating bass chunk provide the first 2 minutes or so before descending into a murky monochrome soundscape. If you're an enthusiast of the nebulous Cymatic Scan this mouth-watering selection is for you.
Church and Market - This time it sounds like we're deep in the bowels of some industrial district. The track develops from a thin sound reminiscent of Aerial Service Area's intro segment overlaid with a quiet field recording from Church and Market. A humming, spacey tapestry of noise launches you into a full-on monochrome session. Being significantly longer then all of the other tracks on the disc, this track could introduce even the headphonautical newbie to the merits of monitoring the quiet evolution of dark ambient veneers. A spacious bass layer spread across the soundfield keeps the track clouded in an ashen smog.
6th and Market - This song happens to be my favorite track on the disc so far. A social dialog, an incidental rapper, a middle eastern vocalist in the distance. These sounds meld various contexts, bringing you through several disparate environmental stages as if you're floating disembodied through the vicinity. A little over halfway through this 10-minute song, an automated monologue from a switchboard phone machine spouts "information about conditional lawful permanent residence status based upon a marriage which took place less than 2 years before immigration or adjustment..." One imagines a foreigner struggling to make any sense of such an ugly bureaucratic quagmire. This one finishes off with an extended monochromatic lull.
Polk and California - Eerie and cavelike in tone, it seems Polk and California is not the place to go to cheer up. A few similarities in this one to the opening portion of Rich and Lustmord's "Stalker," maintaining the delicate balance between the dark and light qualities of the album as a whole. A nonlinear exposure of shadowed surroundings.
Alien - A low din blended with what sounds like a delayed bird chirp. The windy resonance picks up, something is in the air. Our feathered friend ushers in a field recording of what sounds like an on-site Visitation. Distant bells resound before the Mothership's arrival. I can't imagine what this could be a recording of, or perhaps it's manipulated to the point of being unrecognizable. Chances are though, that these are naturally occurring noises that simply give off a sensation of unfamiliarity. In any case, this track certainly has that 'otherworldly' quality.
15th and Church - This one seems to be the most heavily DSP'd track of the bunch. Bells or chimes of dubious origin reveal mutated envelope profiles and unnatural-sounding (electro) harmonics. These merge into a more glossy ensemble of blurred gong imagery which eventually fades out gradually as the DSP glitchery moves into focus.
Birdsong - This one here really hits home almost immediately. Starting out with some traffic site recordings, I am almost at once reminded of the lovely opening passage of Green Paste from Second Nature. The quality of noise here reminds me of some of Rapoon's themes, thickly layered chords beaming through cracked glass with a dusty radiance, or perhaps a Gas track minus the bassy pulsations. The ambience here sinks into a thick haze of midrange monochrome droning which will make your ears melt. Enjoy it while it lasts, you've only got 3 minutes here.
Arboretum - The exit track. First some ringing, then detuned shortwave-whistles from lost frequencies. It's kind of quiet at first, but one minute into it another final wall of pleasant drone rises into full blossom. This album closes out as you admire the bouquet.
(review by [email protected])