Angus Carlyle: In The Shadow Of The Silent Mountain

Gruenrekorder consistently manages to extend the conceptual and presentational range of its products, the latest example being this field recordings-based release by Angus Carlyle. The project encompasses: two stitched booklets bound into a clear cover (50 copies in total), the first featuring text in the form of site-based diary records and the second colour photographs (by Chiara Caterina); sixty-six minutes of audio sound files, available as a free download from the label's site; and a stand-alone micro-site (, which re-presents the photography (in achromatic form) and text in a conjoined display. Carlyle is hardly new to Gruenrekorder, the sound artist, researcher, and teacher at the University of the Arts in London having previously appeared on projects such as Some Memories of Bamboo (2009) and, with Rupert Cox, Air Pressure (2012). With all of the text, image, and sound components orienting themselves around recordings made in the Picentini mountain range in Southern Italy between 2012 and 2015, the project offers a multi-sensory experience to the visitor.

“Acqua Bianca” begins the audio portion with what could pass for a skeletal brand of minimal techno in a different context. In this one, however, the rhythmic noises quickly give way to boots trudging through snow, hydrophones capturing the onrushing flow of ice-covered streams, and various rustlings of indeterminate character. Much as “Acqua Bianca” initially suggests some tangential techno connection, “Il Vertice” does something similar though this time to electronic noise, oddly enough. Smeared swaths of crackle dominate its opening section, though a human presence does enter into the presentation when voices surface midway through the four-minute setting. During “Bells of Church / Bells of Country,” a mutating sound collage of whooshing car engines, chirping birds, cowbells, barking dogs, and, of course, church bells materializes; the closing “Acqua Verde,” on the other hand, presents a micro-sound mix packed with buzzing insects, burbling water, and rainstorm noise. While many such pieces position us outdoors, “Ferro Legno” places us at a factory-like site where machines grind, slice, shear, scrape, and stamp metal.

Much like the text records and photographs, each of the eight sound files documents a distinct aspect of the experience; even though they're all obviously related, each piece acts as a stand-alone. They're not wholly undoctored recordings either; beyond arranging the base materials into sound portraits, Carlyle in moments makes his manipulating presence felt, such as when echo treatments are affixed to the industrial and natural elements within “Fifty Breaths In the Valley.” Such interventions remind us that however pure the originating recordings might be, an artistic intelligence is nonetheless involved in determining the form the work assumes in its final presentation. True to the project's title, it's the mountain that looms largest, whether that involves shadowing Carlyle as he undertakes his explorations of the Southern Italy locale or appearing in outdoor photographs that show towns, forests, rivers, and people dwarfed in size by its immensity.

October 2016