A Semiotic Survey by Thomas Tilly

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Thomas Tilly | A Semiotic Survey
Ferns (CD/DL)

French field recordist Thomas Tilly releases his latest on the oft overlooked, but incredible non-profit imprint, Ferns (Paris). Consisting of seven new pieces, this kicks off with a minimal jutting pitch which leads to a similar call by outdoor crickets and cicadas, and the somewhat pleasant crackle of hardened reeds being snapped underfoot. Though this is an atypical ‘field recording’ per se as Tilly is trying to exemplify the synergy between nature and man-made artifice, of electrical currents and the call of the wild.

As the listener basks in the ultimate subtleties here, layered of organic percussion and rumbling circuits, a new language starts to bud. As he’s found himself in a humid deep forest, somewhere tropical and full of life no less, every little nuance is treated with care – every squeak and crackle, high and low. One thing easily intimated here are the sense of sound and its tactile complements, from rigid to flowing. There are punctuations that appear to initially come off as gas leaks, but at closer inspection it may as well be the trickle of a nearby stream. In all likelihood there slight technical issues with the recording apparatus, which Tilly seems to readily include as part of the ‘nature of the beast’.

These recordings were made between 2015-2018 in Saül, French Guiana (central South America). Tilly doesn’t shy from including his own (and/or his equipment) noise, and in ways it aids and abets the range from quietude to ‘things that go bump in the night’ as part of his tropical journey. The fusion between wild bird calls and circuit bending is a unique model that I haven’t experienced often enough. I’ve heard countless in-situ captures of these wild things, but the way in which they are fused and layered makes for something of its own ilk, montaged or not, and he offers various approaches to that even herein. Most striking is the way in which Paraponera clavata stridulations #5  is edited, leaving much room for the observer’s imagination to try and understand these minor movements, buzz and clack.

As a lengthier conclusion opens, Structures/substructures, at over seventeen minutes, is mostly untouched by any sort of montage or manipulation. The vermin wake, pulse, and chatter alongside feathered friends that prey upon them, and so is the cycle of nature alive and well – despite the foreboding heavy hand of man, industry and greed all around it. Here Tilly presents something hivelike, un-still, waxing and waning with a tumbling beat that seems to come from outside the scene. This feels like less of a document and more of a personal exploration into and influenced by the abstractions embedded in our nature. A Semiotic Survey is just that, and is limited to two-hundred copies.

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