Sound Sensations from Scotland

Mark Vernon | An Annotated Phonography of Chance
Misanthropic Agenda (LP)

Glasgow’s radio producer/sound artist Mark Vernon is about to release his follow-up to the incredible Ribbons of Dust (Flaming Pines, 2019). His sound is intensely intimate, one might think their own pipes are dripping as each droplet is painstakingly captured with precise fidelity. These ten tracks that span forty minutes are woven with zags and fluctuating warp that brings to mind the inversion of a jazz trumpet, its brackish and suspenseful.

The Consensus is to Delete sounds like one of those lost Coil tracks that continue to permeate the underground, paced and plotting, a bit of the spirit world and low in timbre. Perfect for the bewitched season of hallowed souls (and all that jazz). He tends to his set of reels with a real vision, one based on “a soundtrack to an uncompleted 16mm film made in collaboration with English filmmaker Martha Jurksaitis and the Portuguese artist duo Von Calhau! The film ‘Nossos Ossos’ was shot largely on location in the Alentejo region of Portugal in 2013.” It’s as cinematic as it sounds.

Still, Vernon, while capturing the spellbinding echoes of cathedral oration, songbirds tweeting and other street noise, this is far from the typical field recording document, not only in form, but much more deeply in nuanced atmosphere. The slow-churn of ‘scenes’ like Revolving Rivers is almost numbing as a retrospective snapshot in time. Yet it dances in the moment via its sing-song visceral qualities, obliterated transmissions and melodic wooziness. Only at marked times does one feel ‘cozy’ here, due to the carpet being psychically unfurled from under your feet, sending the listener adrift into new atmospheric scapes. A visionary tale of chance and observation.

Linda O’Keefe | Silent Spring
Flaming Pines (DL)

A short record (26 mins), and an introduction to Irish composer Linda O’Keefe these three pieces infuse competing variables as a: “meditation on human and natural sounds, new technologies, and our relationships with other species.” As a lover of living creatures outside the human realm, this collection of watery murmurs are complex, unfamiliar and altogether a cluster of curiosity.

Silent Spring is a true celebration of field recordings made in Iceland (hydroelectric dam) Spain (wind turbine farms) and amidst the threatened Brazilian Amazon. The gulls opposing the fluid mechanisms on Icelandic Reveries actually has a strange ring to it, associative and otherwise. O’Keefe combines her collected sounds in collagist patterns that seem to emphasize tensions and harmonies between species of all sizes, with a particular focus on human nature. The fact that she has traveled to these particular locations will be of interest to not only sound lovers but also environmentalists, and those seriously combatting the raw truth and reality of climate change. The voices are calling, speaking in disparate tongues.

And to this is welcome the oscillating reverb introducing Strange Birds. Given the great fires and threat to the Amazon of late, this is a spiritual alarm call in the form of a dizzying sound mix. The minimal actions and gutteral shout of a singular female character is an emotional outpouring, and unambiguous given the site and governmental inaction. Mother Nature has slowly been losing her battle to greed, and O’Keefe (as well as so many other sane others) are fighting for the future.

Stirring with endless subtlety.

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