David Vélez | The things that objects can tell us about ourselves
Flaming Pines (CD/DL)
Found sounds and field recordings are the specialty of Colombian artist David Vélez. I’ve been following his trajectory since his early output on various online labels back in the mid-2000s, and his career has been one full of exciting developments. Besides his own work, he also operates the Impulsive Habitat label, issuing work by like-minded sonic travelers.
The things that objects can tell us about ourselves is his new release on the Flaming Pines label and is inspired by his teaching of foley and sound design for film. It also revisits previous ideas he has explored, most notably that of forming a narrative through a process of destruction. Vélez says in reference to this aesthetic approach, “To destroy objects has always been important in my work as a way to transform matter through very emotional and redeeming actions.”
“Unseen Terror” from 2013 was an installation that involved the physical destruction of a dining table and chairs, and attempted to answer the artist’s questions regarding the convergence of structural, sculptural and sonic perceptions of space.
This new piece finds Vélez harvesting the sounds of his foley work, rewoven into a narrative of hyper-tactile soundscapes. The physicality of these recordings are layered with ominous drones that act like threads meshing through the more brittle noises and knitting them together. Other recordings were made while his stay at an artist residency in France. He attended the studios of sculptors Danilo Duenas and Veronica Lehner, whose daily workplace sounds he gathered. Besides the scraping of hands on clay, he also witnessed the sculptors own destructive practices and made audio recordings of them tearing down walls and the clattering of nails and a hammer. More destruction, more material to fill Vélez’s sound palette.
So onto the piece itself. A barely perceptible sine tone begins this 50-minute audio journey, slow and quiet. This near-silence is suddenly shattered by a cracking of glass, jolting the listener into a focused attention of the new soundscape. It really acts as an attention-grabbing moment, right at the start. Glass continues to crackle before industrial, machine-like sounds make an appearance. These kind of sounds are fairly prominent on this piece, metallic and mechanic.
Pipes and hollow objects are struck, creating rhythmic patterns that lend a head-nodding quality to the middle section of the piece. These looped phrases are where his found sounds are at their most musical, the differing pitches of bottles and other objects acting like notes on a scale. Other portions of the piece have the atmosphere of abandoned warehouse spaces, ghostly room tones and the echoes of empty industrial sites. These offer moments of subdued calm, but there is a remaining tension, almost paranoia in their eeriness. It’s ambient, but with the chance of chaos around every corner.
The final 10 minutes finds Vélez’s microphone leaving these interiors and venturing out into nature. Bird calls and distant traffic sounds provide a brief respite, before dissolving into muted tones and smaller, but still physical sounds, a warm drone taking us back to where we were at the start, 50 minutes ago. The things that objects can tell us about ourselves is a testament to Vélez’s artistic vision of creating from chaos, the destruction of objects giving birth to new sounds. This tactility is often missing from experimental ambient work, but is the absolute focus here.
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