Monday 9 September 2019

Various - Inside/Beside 3

Album: Inside/Beside 3
Artist: Various
Label: Kalamine Records
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      Yann Pillas – Dialogue Between Crickets and Kraken
     2.      Ben Presto – Open Window—Aube à Villa Lagarina
     3.      Billy Yfantis – Bird in Ventilation
     4.      I, Eternal – En Auxois
     5.      Peter Wullen – Faces of the Grass
     6.      Mean Flow – Earth Dies
     7.      Muwn – Nature’s Heart
     8.      Wanqa – Bird
     9.      Saint de l’Abîme – Machinery Rusts Beaten by the Rainforest.
    10.  RG Rough – Waterfall
    11.  Lavatone – A Jet Flying over a Creek near Aberdeen, Texas
    12.  Larbjo – Aftermath
    13.  Lezet – Stream
    14.  Zumaia – Defectus
   15.  Uruly – Que Vanha a Chuva! (Só os Fortes Entenderão… Ou os Que Gostam de Chapéu) (6x mais lento)
    16.  BR – Chernobyl’s Prayer
    17.  Nimbostrata – Råstasjön Meditation

I mentioned in my review of DR’s Tea Sessions album recently just how impressed I was by France’s Kalamine Records’ output, and this compilation has done nothing to diminish my opinion. This is the third in the Inside/Beside series, and if this is the measure of the quality on the previous two entries then I am just going to have to gird my loins and investigate them too.

This is a ‘name your own price’ release, and for whatever you decide to give you get 17 tracks of drone, dark ambient, experimental, electronic, and industrial sound tapestries, whose general theme is an ecological one. Track one, Yann Pillas’ ‘Dialogue Between Crickets and Kraken’ is exactly that, opening with the chirruping of crickets at twilight, until they fade out to be replaced by a ringing siren, a harbinger of, or a signal to, something deeper and darker lurking in the depths, waiting for darkness so it can emerge with impunity. Punctuations of underwater distortions presage its arrival, an answering call and an acknowledgement that the time is propitious. We are greeted with yet more natural sounds on ‘Open Window--Aube à Villa Lagarina’ but this time of birds singing against a susurrating backdrop, with incidental sounds and an organ gently fading in but never quite supplanting nature’s orchestra. Continuing with yet more nods to avian life, Billy Yfantis’ ‘Bird in Ventilator’ is pretty much that – a chirping bird carolling over a deep machine drone.

I, Eternal’s ‘En Auxois’ appears on the face of it to be a freeform percussive piece, using what appear to be metallic and wooden instruments, but could just actually be a field recording of a herd of Auxois horses … saying that doesn’t invalidate it as a distinctly abstract sound collage, however: for some these are everyday sounds, but for those of us outside this culture it’s a way of creating alien vistas as well as informing us of the bizarre nature, when heard in isolation, of the sounds we ignore every day in our own lives.

Next up is Peter Wullen’s ‘Face of the Grass’, and again we are treated to the sounds of birds competing with the phrase “faces of the grass” looped endlessly. Mean Flow’s ‘Earth Dies’ is a lament for what we’ve lost and are continuing to lose, as the earth and its life is slowly strangled and suffocated. Here we have more natural sounds, over which plays a forlorn piano figure accompanied by a plucked melody– a sad indictment too of our wilful ignorance in denying our deleterious impact on the world. Muwn’s ambient ‘Nature’s Heart’ is a crunching walk on a hollow drone, a delicate path leading into the secret centres of Nature itself, where its beating heart resides. Here again natural sounds, buzzing and whispering, assail our ears, a reminder that perhaps we aren’t the masters after all, only the guardians.

Following on from this is ‘Bird’ by Wanqa, a gentle flute and guitar refrain lulling you into a false sense of comfort until a female voice, completely out of tune and off-key interjects, destroying whatever harmony was there. Balance is restored with a guitar melody, but the memory of the voice lingers, perhaps signalling that it is humanity that’s the sour note in Nature’s symphony. A mechanical bass note stalks the opening of Saint l’Abîme’s ‘Machinery Rusts Beaten by the Rainforest’, stomping through a place where life abounds aplenty, all the while singing a weird melody, one which breaks up and disintegrates. What I get from this is that, whatever happens to us, Nature will prevail over our legacy – it’s not the pliant entity we imagine it to be. ‘Waterfall’, by RG Rough, is a beautiful column of dark ambient drone, swelling and receding, but forever in motion. Lavatone’s contribution features sounds of waterfowl, upon a quiet creek somewhere (presumably in Aberdeen, Texas), until a jet aircraft soars high above – this reminded me of my childhood summers, when I would hear a distant jet engine, look up into a perfectly blue sky, and see the white speck of an airliner trailing vapours overhead. It sounds exactly like this: ground-level sounds carry on without interruption while the booming sounds echo from far above.

Larbjo experiments with metallic belches and glitchiness, presenting us with a fractured soundscape of dismembered and misremembered events. Lezet’s ‘Stream’ starts with a laughing duck (or so it sounds like) while a distant thrumming melody plays in the background. Zumaia’s ‘Defectus’ wings in on a scratchy high-pitched howl which stretches out for its entire running time, sounding like a desolate lament to a ravaged Earth. It’s not a particularly optimistic piece – winds rage across a denuded world, the flora and fauna long-since vanished, leaving behind a waterless and airless world of pale rock and sickly dust.

Uruly’s ‘Que Vanha a Chuva (Só os Fortes Entenderão… Ou os Que Gostam de Chapéu) (6x mais lento)’ (which translated means ‘The Rain Comes! (Only the Strong Will Understand… Or the Hatters) (6x slower)’) is a two minute blast of wall noise, blistering and abrasive – pretty much what will happen if the Earth dies by our hands. ‘Chernobyl’s Prayer’, composed by BR, is the longest track on here (just shy of 15 minutes) and is a kind of rhythmic noise blast, not as ear-wax melting as the previous offering but just as effective in portraying ruin, erosion, and the utter degradation of an entire planet. Like Uruly’s effort it doesn’t offer any rays of hope, or sunshine for that matter, instead piling layer upon layer of darkness and suffocation. In other words, a funeral pall for Gaia.

‘Råstasjön Meditation’ closes out the album, and here Nimbostratus leaves us with a quiet susurration, with the apparent objective of being a calming antidote to the obliterative blasts of nuclear serration on the previous tracks. However, that’s just superficial: the rumbles and voices at the end tell a different story, that this is now a ghost world, a place of lost people and lost memories, a haunted rock, where the shades of the living wander about in abject despair. If Hell exists, then we’ve created it ourselves: our ignorance and denial have conspired to bring us to this pass, and now there is no return. The saddest aspect is that there’s nothing and no one to remember us, only the universe and we never mattered to it in the first place. It’s a very sobering conclusion, one we should take note of.
Taken in the round, this not just a warning but a plea: a plea for action before it all disappears. A request that we leave behind human greed and covetousness, ignorance and denial, and instead embrace concern and compassion for not only our fellow people but also everything that calls this Earth its home. As many have pointed out, there is no Planet B: this is our only home. Listening to this merely brings home the beauty and splendour that we are destroying – and it is also a savage appraisal of the shortcomings of our species.

Available from the Kalamine Records Bandcamp page as a download:

Psymon Marshall 2019.


Jordi Heras Fauque said...

Awesome! Congratulations for your great vision and appreciation in this review. You really are someone who cares...

Linn F. said...

Thanks a lot for the powerful review! Just wanted to point out though, it’s Nimbostrata (the last track), not Nimbostratus :)