Blevin Blectum: Irradiance
Estuary Ltd.

Electronic music aficionados likely will be familiar with Blevin Blectum (real name Bevin Kelley) for the collaborative work she's done with Kristin Grace Erickson as Blectum from Blechdom and for her solo productions, too. Having released material since 1998 on labels such as Tigerbeat6, Orthlorng Musork, and Aagoo, Kelley, a veterinary nurse as well as violinist, multimedia composer, and sound designer, brings a substantial prehistory to this forty-six-minute set on Estuary Ltd.

Created at Studio Sinopterus in Providence, Rhode Island and issued in a letterpress-printed edition of 200, Irradiance layers synthesized, acoustic, and hand-held electroacoustic material into five immersive and detail-intensive settings. Originally generated for a ten-channel installation-and-performance space, the project features analog and digital sounds that Kelley transformed, dissolved, and recombined into their ultimate multi-layered form. There's an hermetic and uncompromising quality to the project reminiscent of the kind of explorative sound research associated with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and its early pioneers of electronic music and computer design such as Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire.

Though Kelley's released material on Tigerbeat6, Irradiance possesses little of the anarchistic playfulness sometimes heard on its recordings—which is not to suggest that the album isn't playful, too. Stated otherwise, Irradiance wears a serious mask, but underneath it one finds an explorative sensibility that's playful in its own way. “Enfolded Embers” presents a sound portrait seething with alien or insect interactions magnified so as to render every possible detail with clarity. “Warm Machines” would seem to be an ironic title, given the severe vortex of sound on offer, though the title could be interpreted as referring to overheating machines on the verge of collapse. The recording's longest piece is the penultimate “Incinerating Zeros,” whose micro-sound textures ripple through ghostly, heavily reverberant spaces with a clinically controlled deliberation for seventeen minutes. In the tightly wound sub-universe Kelley fashions, tension slowly mounts until it reaches an almost unbearable degree, and the abstract elements mired within it seem to want to break free from the state of suffocation entrapping them.

Irradiance's universe generally feels so self-contained, the mere presence of field-recorded crowd noises in the closing “Presages of Woe” arrives as some kind of relief—even if the human sounds do quickly transform into ghoulish shrieks. Even so, one will reap the greatest benefit from the recording if experienced as a headphones listen or on a high-end system capable of bringing forth the subtleties of its sound design.

August-September 2014