Peter Caeldries: Jhirna Jali
Gruenrekorder Digital

Some sound artists use field recordings as raw material in the service of some further musical concept, whereas others approach the field recordings genre with a more documentary-like mindset, believing that the material should be left in its purest, unadulterated form. Jhirna Jali, a collection of field recordings gathered from the Northern India jungles, suggests that Peter Caeldries is a member of the latter group. The Brussels, Belgium-based sound artist brings his background in anthropology and sound engineering training, among other areas of interest, to this hour-long collection, which he recorded during a field trip to the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, Garhwal and Nainital Districts, Northern India during the spring of 2009.

The reserve, a remote locale situated at the foot of the Himalayas and a protected area for the endangered Bengal Tiger, proves to be an ideal site for Caeldries' project, given that it's home to as many as 600 species of birds and almost 500 species of mammals, elephants and leopards among them. Jhirna Jali documents activity arising within the Corbett jungle from early morn to night in a way that enables the listener to transplant him/herself into the setting with ease and experience the setting not just as a place but as an ecosystem teeming with life. Adding considerably to the immersive potential of the material is the fact that the is area not overflown by aircraft and thus no alien sounds despoil the site.

“Manak Parbat Himalaya” instantly situates the listener within the exotic setting via the early morning calls of the Blue-throated Barbet and Greater Flameback. “Savera” (the Hindi word for morning) captures a wealth of sounds at daybreak, including the insistent call of the Grey-headed Woodpecker and a vast array of bird chatter and insect hum, until another distinctive call emerges to join the nature symphony, this one by the Sambar (Rusa unicolor), the large deer that's native to southern and southeast Asia. Even a short piece like “Thatch” boasts a panorama of creature sounds (in this case the call of the Spotted Dove is a focal point). With time advancing, we're now at midday and in “Bhakrakot Nala” next to a creek (Nala is Hindi for creek or small stream) where bird chatter and insect buzzing accompanies the dribble of the water flow. “Gairal FRH,” recorded at the Gairal Forest Rest House on the banks of the Ramganga River plunges us into a rain-drenched setting accompanied by the persistent rumble of thunder. “Ramganga Mahseer” plunges us even deeper in being a hydrophone recording of the river wherein the Mahseer, a fresh water fish that can reach over two metres in length, reside. Time marches on, as the nocturnal array of “Rajani” (Hindi for night) makes clear, and when insect hum forms a droning backdrop to the respective calls of the Common Hawk Cuckoo, Oriental Scops Owl, and Large-tailed Nightjar. The album's closing piece, “Rana,” also was recorded at night but presents a more peaceful setting dominated by the clacking sounds of Skipper Frogs captured at close range.

Caeldries' recording is the next best thing to being there, as by the end of Jhirna Jali one feels as if one has an informed grasp of the locale's wildlife and weather patterns. There are moments when the total sound mass captured on the recording is so dense and rich, its impact verges on psychotropic. For the home listener, an even greater degree of immersion might be achieved by darkening the room and playing the recording at high volume; in this way, the experience of listening to it becomes even more hallucinatory.

July-August 2012