...occasionally the recognisable sound of wind on water or through leaves can be...
Peter Marsh 2002-11-20
Over the last few years there have been a glut of records released that document the sound of the world doing its own thing in a variety of ways; Alan Lamb's telegraph wires whistling in the wind, Chris Watson's wildlife recordings, Joe Banks and Stephen McGreevy's VLF radio recordings of solar storms and leaf static and so on.
While none of this may be music in the strictest sense of the word, some of the results have been as strange and beautiful as any contemporary electronica, and a vindication of Cage's idea that there's enough to listen to in the world without resorting to music. Wind is the work of Hazard, aka Swedish sound artist B. J. Nilsen (as well as a large variety of meteorological phenomena, who presumably don't get royalties). Unlike the purely documentary work of those mentioned above, Nilsen has subjected his raw material of wind recordings (much of it gathered by Chris Watson for a Radio 4 programme) to extensive digital processing, much like the work of Matmos or Steve Roden.
Using filtering, harmonisation and sundry other techniques, Nilsen alchemically transforms this source material into a set of ambient pieces of unearthly beauty. Deep bass drones, gentle, sighing tones and crackles morph gently into another; occasionally the recognisable sound of wind on water or through leaves can be heard, or the deep breath of moving air as it caresses the microphone diaphragm. Nilsen conjures up the same sense of place that Brian Eno's On Land manages, each piece having its own distinctive, immersive soundworld. Sometimes a more conventionally 'musical' aesthetic emerges; the long "Anemo" even features an almost techno-esque bass pulse at its close, while the gorgeous "Landmass" pitches plaintive, shimmering melodics over a deep sine tone in a piece which evokes Eno's best work. This is stuff that repays deep, close listening; definitely album of the year material.