Chris Watson and Marcus Davidson - Cross Pollination (CD Touch)
In the world of human nothing is new. Only directional concentration reveals what was already there if we were only aware enough to perceive it. Even our attempts at electronica are secondary mimicry of what Nature richness already produces. In the 28 minute 'Midnight at the Oasis' the insects form a high pitched wirring drone that breaks the conventions of what we know in electronica. This recording made in the Kalahari desert is a snapshot of the sounds created by the diverse insects between sunrise and sunset. The clicks, the ticks, the wirrs, the rattles, the buzzes form a seamless improvisation; a communication that we're too dim to understand beyond the aesthetic. One insect's brief sounds are like helicopter blades at full flight. The clicking sound of one insect did remind me of the Clicking language of the San and Hadzabe tribes of southern and Eastern Africa respectively. One of the oldest human languages.
Watson's approach is to record sound faithfully and not process them. It's a far more interesting method of field recording than one where the recorder is overtly present in the recording or uses the recordings as raw materials for their own work. As it is we bring a lot of baggage to the recordings merely by being present or by listening to the CD. But that's a whole other debate.
For the second track, 'The Bee Symphony', Marcus Davidson used Watson and Mike Harding's recordings of beehives in unspecified parts of England to compose a choral piece that worked with harmonies. Bees like a distant drone of a hurdy gurdy eventually separate into individuals, combining with human choral voices. I did dread hearing this live performance recorded in 2010 at the Music Research Centre in the University of York, but it works impressively. The interaction between the trained voices and the bees is done sensitively and the first instinct is to think of Ligeti's compositions. The buzzing drones of the glorious bees and the smooth drones of the choir run parallel, intertwine, diverge, swarm to a peak and dive menacingly. A grand sequence of events when taken for what it is, it does also encourage the activity of interaction rather than passive listening to the natural sounds.
There are many others who make wonderful field recordings, most notably Gordon Hempton, but for me Chris Watson's immaculate recordings bring about an understanding that awareness and comprehension isn't an instant thing, it's a gradual reveal.
Yusuke Murakami's strangely detailed cover photography features what looks like a hard close-up on blue fibres. What is it? The CD comes presented in a digipak. HM