Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sounds of the Day #6/2015: Alva Noto (4) / Howlround (1/2)


Alva Noto - Uni C




Howlround - Secret Songs of Savamala (2013)

‘The ruins of the Spanish House stand on the banks of the river Sava at the heart of the Savamala district of Belgrade. Originally a decadent customs house in the heart of a bustling port, this decaying structure bears the imprint of many generations. Now an empty echo chamber, its walls reverberate with the rumble of the passing freight trains like the sea inside a shell; songs and shouts return distorted from a trip around the flooded basement and exposed structural supports become an unholy set of chimes. All the sounds you hear on this album were recorded on site and nothing has been added that is not of the building itself. This echoic palimpsest is architectural portraiture in sound’.

Leila Peacock
 




Howlround - The Ghost of the Bush (2012)

‘The Ghosts Of Bush’ was created entirely using the natural acoustic sounds of Bush House, the iconic home for the past seven decades of the BBC World Service which closed its doors for the last time on July 12th 2012. All of the sounds were captured in the small hours of the morning in empty offices, corridors, stairwells and other hidden corners by a Studio Manager working overnight. These recordings were then dubbed onto quarter-inch tape in the basement studio deep in the bowels of the South-East wing using two of the surviving reel-to-reel machines.

Adjusting the playback speed of the spools and ‘bouncing’ the recordings between the two tape machines lead to the discovery of a number of interesting phrases and sound textures which were then looped, layered and fashioned into rough compositions. Over time the tape would start to degrade and alter the nature of the sounds, while occasional echo was created by recording and playing various loops simultaneously, feeding the sound back into itself. The entire album was produced using these simple methods, and no other effects or studio trickery have been used. Thanks to the sonorous quality of Bush House’s Portland stone walls and high ceilings, the natural resonance of the space was all that was needed.

These are the sounds the building makes when it thinks no-one is listening, the sounds of many sleepless nights spent isolated in a labyrinthine basement surrounding by a crepuscular soundtrack of creaks and crackles. It’s an attempted homage to the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop who crafted the most incredible of sound-worlds from the most basic of sources. But mostly it’s my way of saying goodbye to a building that I and so many people have loved.

When talking of historic structures, the old clichéd approach is to wonder what one might hear if the ‘walls could speak’. I like to think that with ‘The Ghosts Of Bush’ we come closer to hearing them sing: One last song about the passage of time and the impermanence of all things, with the ghosts of the machines joining in. The last hurrah of a bygone era, of obsolete equipment and of a studio that has since fallen silent forever.

Robin The Fog