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Review in Vital Weekly

While the four CDs have a documentary quality to them, Diepenmaat invited artists to compose new work out of his collected field recordings and made those new pieces available as a download, essentially producing a fifth CD to complement the four physical ones.

Published: September 5, 2018
Tags: esc.rec.61, esc.rec.62, Press, Sediment

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Various Artists – Off Track
Jeroen Diepenmaat – 26032017 25062017 29102017 28012018
Review by Howard D Stelzer in Vital Weekly:

This fascinating boxset is the end-product of four “sound walks” led by Jeroen Diepenmaat outside of Deventer, The Netherlands. Diepenmaat is known for his investigations of format and media, creating cut-up collaged flexi-discs and record objects, tape loops and manipulated cassette players. For this project, however, he took a fairly straightforward “acoustic ecology” approach as he led groups of listeners on four walks through Keirzersrande (one walk per season) with two directional microphones. Afterwards, he gave the participants a CD of what was recorded on the walk. The four CDs in this set collect all four documents of the sound walks. While the four CDs have a documentary quality to them, Diepenmaat invited artists to compose new work out of his collected field recordings and made those new pieces available as a download from the Esc. Records Bandcamp page, essentially producing a fifth CD to complement the four physical ones.

I have not yet been to the part of the Netherlands where these walks took place, so I came to this sonic experience with no more information than what came out of my speakers. With good headphones on, there is a persistent sense of space across these discs. The content is quotidian: the cries of birds, the low rumble of cars (with their telltale doppler signature), passing airplanes, occasional wind blast, moving water, and people coughing, talking and laughing. Diepenmaat makes no attempt to disguise the sources or force any composerly drama on his material, which over the course of each disc has the effect for me of observing an environment along with him, perhaps walking in the group and looking/listening over his shoulder. My favorite tracks were the most abstract ones; on the second disc, the fourth track seems to capture a motor spinning or some repetitive, manmade sound whose source isn’t so readily recognizable. I also enjoyed the third disc, which contains the most static pieces of the set, with vast expanses of empty space and not a lot happening. All six of the tracks are quite similar in content and density, making it most suitable as ambience to blend in with a listener’s environment. The fourth disc begins with a fantastic jolt of technology, as the artist’s recorder seems to be cutting in and out. After two tracks that are similar to disc 3, the final piece of the set finds something like metal being shifted around a workspace, bashing together with a force and colour absent from what came previously. Again, the fizzle of Diepenmaat’s recorder makes his authorial presence felt.

The four discs of the set have a rawness to them, which I assume is what was intended. Diepenmaat’s decision to give his sounds over to composers, then, is interesting. It takes him out of the “acoustic ecology” zone, allowing a diverse bunch of people from different backgrounds to take the sound walks farther afield. Again, my favorite tracks are the ones that took them the farthest. People like Michael Ridge, Staplerfahrer, podL and BMB Con. are relatively conservative with the material, keeping intact the general sound-world of wind, birds, and passing cars while lightly imposing their own structures. Teleferick, on the other hand, somehow came up with a lovely little lullaby for acoustic bass and cello (and perhaps other things I don’t recognize), though its relationship to the source is obscure. Gluid (aka Bram van den Oever) similarly strays far from the idyllic landscape with operatic wordless vocals and upbeat ambient pulse. Francisco Lopez brings a dramatic edge (as he does), distilling low tones and metallic percussion into a foreground shriek. Similarly bold is Machinefabriek’s take, which pulls tonal hum out of the white-noise. Nlus somehow finds thundering beats and vocal tics amid Diepenmaat’s blank landscapes, transforming the walk through nature into woofer-shaking dance tune. Vehikel also finds a heavy beat among the field recordings (perhaps from the final track of the fourth disc?), a slow pummel augmented by shearing-metal filigree. Les Horribles Travailleurs are somewhere in the middle, preserving the sound walks’ elements while teasing out drones and tonal events. (HS)

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