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Chris Watson & BJ Nilsen Storm Review

Album. Released 2006.  

BBC Review

At the finish I was expecting to open my eyes and find the living room overrun with...

Peter Marsh 2007

Chris Watson's field recordings of wildlife and natural phenomena pose a lot of questions; is this music? if not, what are we listening to? should this flock of geese be getting royalties? With his more recent work Waton has bucked a few of those questions by mixing, editing and collaging his material into soundscapes that are more akin to music than anything else.

That's very much the case here. Nilsen (aka Hazard and a purveyor of minimal electronics) and Watson have collaborated before, most notably on Hazard's Wind. They share an interest is in the 'rhythms and music' of the elements, and these recordings follow a particular cyclonic system that visits North East England, Scotland and Sweden.

The opening "No Man's Land" is a tour de force; assembled and collaged by Watson from several recordings made over a five year period, it takes the listener on a strange and improbable journey; a coastal walk in worsening weather where seabirds gather in their masses and seals moan spookily to themselves. At one point the mounting roar and hiss of the storm engulfs everything; there's a brief moment when it feels like Watson's microphones are under the water. At the finish I was expecting to open my eyes and find the living room overrun with seaweed, driftwood and maybe a flock of stormy petrels...

'SIGWX' takes a similar approach and achieves similar levels of intensity and abstraction, but in a way the most effective piece is Nilsen's closing "Austrvegr". Recorded in on the islands of Gotland and Oland, it offers the grim monotony of wind and rain, heard from various cottages, sheds, fields and beaches. It's a meditative, strange experience, and comes highly recommended.

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