Angus Carlyle: Some Memories of Bamboo

Having initially come to Kami-Katsura, a small suburban district in North West Kyoto, Japan, by accident, Angus Carlyle found himself so seduced by the tranquility of its acoustic atmospheres that he subsequently returned to compile three weeks of recordings of a land area 500 metres long and 100 metres wide. Some Memories of Bamboo is the first solo CD from Carlyle, a writer and sound recordist who works at the University of the Arts, London and co-curated the Sound Escapes exhibition at Space in London. The sixty-five-minute release effectively documents his interest in merging anthropology and sound art into an “arresting geography of the ear,” a conceptual field where the visual gives way to the auditory.

The listener vicariously moves through the environments alongside Carlyle who explores natural and man-made locales in equal measure. At a picnic, an infant named Kiyosumi babbles while splashing stones into a stream; cheerful muzak floats through the background while customers rustle newspapers and dishes clatter (“Two Cafes”); chirping birds, buzzing insects, and a frog's soft croak are heard at a river's edge (“Kaeru: The Return”); and drums, tolling bells, and chants emanate from a nearby Jyoujyuji temple (“4 a.m. Jyoujyuji”). During “Another Level,” a crossing's insistent warning signal forecasts the arrival of Hankyu Company trains as they pass through the Arashiyama Line, while “Bamboo Harvest” documents Carlyle's frustrated attempts to capture the creaking trunks, crinkling leaves, and cracks of the titular tree. Elsewhere, feet clump along the ground, thunder accompanies a deluge of rainwater, a bus clatters on a rocky road, and plips, plops, gurgles and trickles resound by a riverbank.  

Carlyle's recording certainly receives a deluxe presentation from Gruenrekorder. The tall CD case format includes a multi-page booklet inside that features the producer's background detail for each of the release's thirteen scenes (a shame the text is set in upper case rather than the more readable upper &lower case), all of which aids the listener in visualizing the settings. As fascinating an aural document as it is, prospective listeners should note that Some Memories of Bamboo is a field recordings project in the purest sense, with Carlyle allowing the materials to work their magic in their natural form. Not all listeners, truth be told, are as captivated by the rise and fall of car engine sounds, the movement of a motorcycle coming closer and moving away, and the textural abundance of city noises. Still, those who like a little music to sweeten their field recordings could turn to the final track, “Shitsuren Shimashita,” wherein an older woman, a silk scarf around her throat, leans against the railing by the Gawa stream and sings a sad and lonely song.

November 2009