AC The concepts of place and space have become the fundamental elements of contemporary trans-disciplinary research on sound and soundscapes. Thanks to the contribution of acoustic ecology, theories of sound art and the inquiries of sound artists operating in different digital music scenes, these themes now represent both new research domains and places for a deeper reflection on the role and reception of all sound forms. Jay-Dea Lopez’s work marks a significant contribution to this analysis. He provides a possible re-consideration of sound’s potential and of all practices sound related, whereby the complex steps of creative processes shape new spaces.
With “AC”, Lopez, native to Australia, questions the relationship between field recording, often used as a practice to investigate exotic and distant places, and the intimate dimension of the domestic acoustic space. This analysis is developed both on a spatial level and on the fringe that separates the audible from the inaudible. “AC” fascinates the listener with its capacity to balance sonic complexity with the openness of its soundscape, creating very suggestive atmospheres.
“AC” is a sound enquiry developed on different levels. The final result is a study that represents the surrounding environment as a space-time continuum, a place in which universal and particular elements intersect in complex ways. The work transcends the dimension of pure documentation of objects and sound spaces. By presenting unexplored places “AC” builds a strong emotional aesthetic capable of involving the listener in a process of great synesthetic and imaginary possibilities.
Notes from the artist When we think of the concept of “place” we often do so in a context that focuses on vast exteriors. As field recordists we regularly position ourselves in grand locations with microphones directed towards the sounds of exotic forests, river systems, mountain ranges or the frozen Polar Regions. But what of the place in which we live - our domestic soundscape. How do our smaller private worlds connect with these public exteriors?
"AC" (alternating current) ponders on the relationship between home and its outer perimeters. Layers of field recordings convey the sounds of electricity that run between my domestic sphere and the local farming community and sub-tropical forests. Here electricity is an invisible, and often inaudible, thread that holds us to a bigger notion of place. It is a grid that dissects and connects the earth beneath our feet.
Thanks to the Galaverna team for giving me the freedom to work within my own aesthetic. Thanks also to those who take the time to listen.
AC by Jay-Dea Lopez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.galaverna.org.
Australian field recording artist Jay-Dea Lopez‘s recent release on Galaverna, AC, is a study of the relationship between domestic and distant or exotic spaces in the practice of field recording. In addition to field recordings themselves, he uses sounds of the electricity (or alternating current) that symbolically and physically connects both those spaces to one another and each of them, in turn, to the recording device itself. With such a title, it is unsurprising that electronics are present throughout the piece. While they are usually brought to the forefront, are occasionally mistaken for the fields themselves, and other times slip into the mix, for better or worse they are literally omnipresent. To be fair, I have an aesthetic penchant for some of the particular brands of lowercase glitchy electronics on display in AC. If one does not enjoy that style, then AC may make for a difficult listen. The question, then, is do they add or subtract from the various field recordings that pass behind them? I say behind purposefully, as the overarching dynamic impression of the synthetic component is one of highly compressed, enhanced or otherwise amplified sound – tones and textures that the ear associates with low audibility brought to the forefront, occasionally over much diminished or under-modulated fields that would obviously be rather loud in situ. Perhaps in an effort to avoid some of the quotidian elements of the audio palette that direct recordings of A/C flows offer, the electronic components of the piece are frequently loop-based, or otherwise rhythmically structured. This can sometimes offer great interplay with the fields (across the second half in particular), but they can also come across as too artificial or arbitrary in relation to the sections where the fields are less dynamic or drone-based. By way of example, towards the end of the first act, beeping and hissing sine waves are backed by quietly running water – a pedestrian contrast in tone and texture. At nearly exactly the halfway mark the loops that have frequented the piece so far begin to build and complicate, and the recording takes on a studio feel. That the see-sawing ticks, hisses, and flares of shorting circuits are indiscernibly either computer generated, acoustic recordings of electronic devices, or fields of insects, of security systems, or of the recorder itself is the most engaging facet of AC. This section alone is worth repeated listens. Its remainder, though not quite achieving the curious and cohesive sound of the second act, benefits from maintaining a more rhythmic structure. Bird calls, crickets and other arpeggiated or repeated fields feature more prominently and produce a variety of syncopated beats both amongst themselves and alongside the electronics. While the latter change little across their breadth, these interactions give the appearance of a dynamic work – rather symbolically placing the role of the field recorder (device, person) in AC itself. My thoughts on the relatively stolid nature of the digital detritus that spans the work are mixed. It adds a thematic appeal to an otherwise very diverse set of field recordings, though it can also sound tiresomely repetitive. Diminishing its effectiveness is the frequent use of slow fades and pans across the work, producing a rather sanguine tone. On the other hand, there are some interesting meta-structures in AC. The piece rhythmically moves between noisier drone sections and more pointillistic ones, providing some metre. Lopez also arranges the track loosely as a palindrome, with a number of sound sources from the opening act reappearing in its dying minutes (including a delightful pseudo-purr that I could listen to over and over again). Hearing them reframed in a new field under different modulation is also a nice touch. AC provides some incongruous listening experiences, where the acoustic and digital elements seem somewhat arbitrarily cut-and-paste. However, it also delivers some wonderfully cohesive soundscapes, where the dynamic and textural elements of the diverse sound sources complement each other beautifully. It makes for a lilting listen, as the ear periodically dis- and re-engages with the music. Whether the effect is latent or intended, it is at least pleasant. An enjoyable release, and certainly one to encourage finding more of Lopez’s work. Get it as a free download direct from Galaverna, or stream it on Bandcamp.
Jay-Dea Lopez hits with the high pitched frequencies on “AC”. The recording focuses on the simultaneous interaction between sine waves and the natural world. As sine waves are things that do not occur in nature the result is something oddly compelling. AC reflects upon a world similar to that explored by Onkyokei. Unlike that movement’s music Jay-Dea Lopez acknowledges the natural world incorporating it into his sonic vocabulary. Aspects of it recall the day to day digital hum of the world but while allowing the background sound of life to seep in. Beginning with an animal-like murmur the piece starts off quietly. This repetitive structure helps to serve as a rhythm of sorts. Focus is on the tiniest detail possible. Gradually the digital elements subside to reveal conversations in the background. Such detail only serves to highlight the calming effects of a quiet night. Indeed the high pitched frequencies mirror that given off by the insects. Crackles of the sound mimic that of radio static robbed of the opportunity to transmit new waves, simply staying stationary. Around the ten minute mark the piece begins to delve deeper into the bass frequencies that have helped to guide the rest of the sound. Halfway through the piece the sounds become heavily related to that of glitch. By the very end of the piece everything has calmed to reveal the piece’s true starting point that of gentle hiss. “AC” is a polychromatic piece remixing life into the digital realm.