With this new project, Radia, Long Beach, CA sound artist Glenn Bach builds quiet soundscapes from guitar feedback and field recordings captured at various state parks in California and Wisconsin. By combining the unpredictable aspect of analog signal with the mostly natural sounds of protected landscapes, he examines the blurred boundaries of geography, place and memory.
The album is a quiet masterpiece of minimalism, its slow guitar tones feeding off the subtle location recordings which underpin the entirety of the release. Radia is a set of recordings that reveals something new, in miniature, with each successive listen.
Catalogue number: DU08
From Chris Whitehead, The Field Reporter 123 (13 May 2012):
Standing on a rocky ridge looking out over a vast expanse of landscape in one of Wisconsin’s State Parks beneath an endless sky. The clouds are great citadels of enormous height moving slowly and casting their shadows over the grasslands below. The air is cool and the sun is high.
Long Beach, California sound artist Glenn Bach recorded Radia at various State Parks in California and Wisconsin. The field recordings were then combined with guitar feedback in an extremely subtle way. Released on Brian Lavelle’s Dust Unsettled label, the work is decribed as ‘an exploration of the blurred boundaries of geography, place and memory’, which pretty much nails it.
Radia is a subtle, organic paean to the vast North American wilderness. Rather than grandeur and monumentalism (tropes which have been done to death by numerous painters, photographers and composers), Bach focusses on the clear air and expanding horizons. The solitary figure in the landscape, attentive to the languages and nuances of his environment. Maybe at times there is no figure at all?
Tendrils of guitar generated sound hang in the air like vapour trails, dissolving and reforming in the lucid atmosphere. Sometimes like streamers being twisted in the wind, sometimes like a mist clinging to the ground.
Somehow the music generates these expansive spaces in the listener’s consciousness too. Of course this requires some effort on the listener’s part, but what work of any worth doesn’t? It is a two way process and deep listening yields rewards. Time dilates and the mind is cleansed by clear North American air. I would encourage using headphones and just surrendering.
The field recordings are presented as understated and intimate signs. Rain, grass, birds. At one point a plane flies over, the sound of it’s engine mirroring the drifting feedback that often arches across the tracks on this CD. Planes always draw attention to the spaces above. The extent of the atmosphere, and the fact that wherever you are, the human world is still liable to intrude.
This type of work is often described as ‘lowercase’ music, along with the output of such artists as Steve Roden and Bernhard Günter. However, other than being quite quiet and having few dynamic peaks, it is hard to see the similarity. Although there is space in Radia, there is actually very little silence and there is plenty of detail and development. Also all playback devices have volume knobs these days. You can always turn it up a bit.
Certainly one of my favourite recent releases due to the way it unfurls and the images it conjours. To be able to make a little 5″ silver disc carry such a huge amount of land and sky is quite something.
From Vital Weekly 821 (28 February 2012):
Although the name sounded familiar, I may not have heard of Glenn Bach before. He leads the improvising ensemble Double Blind ('a vehicle for collaborative soundscapes) and Intense Situations Of Peril (all electronics ensemble) and has worked with John Kannenberg on 'Two Cities', 'an audio-visual meditation on ambulatory experiences of place'. Besides that he has a net-label MPRNTBL, about field recordings, lowercase, analog noise and collaborative soundscapes. This solo release uses guitar feedback and field recordings captured in various state parks in California and Wisconsin. This is quiet music, sometimes almost below the threshold of hearing, but it sounds great. Lowercase is a term we don't hear that much anymore, but it certainly applies to this music. Whatever field recordings he has captured (at some instances I recognized the sound of water and birds), or whatever processes he applied to them, they sound like blurry static pieces of hiss like sounds, in which he places his sparse guitar sounds. There is a lot of space in the music - not in a cosmic sense of the word, but in the sparseness of the sounds used to create this music. This is not the kind of music you put on for 'fun', or as 'background'. This music requires active listening and without such concentrated effort it rather fails to impress the listener. It might be over before you know something had started. That is, I think, a great quality. (FdW)