Robert Crouch: An Occupied Space
Dragon's Eye Recordings

An Occupied Space is the debut full-length release by Robert Crouch, a Los Angeles-based visual artist and electronic musician whose music has appeared on Untitled & After and Loøq recordings. Each of its five tracks is conceived to be a landscape study of sorts, with a field recording of a particular site capturing the myriad sounds that inhabit that space for the duration of the track in question. As a result, each piece assumes the form of a living sonic portrait of the setting, albeit one which Crouch also contributes to as the guiding hand that shapes the materials into final form. They're hardly unmusical pieces, however, as musical elements relating to the site in question are woven into their fabric. If anything, they're primarily musical pieces as said elements dominate, with site-specific sounds assuming more of a background presence within the pieces. Though “Firehouse I,” for example, might have been recorded at the titular locale, little overt evidence of the site comes into play until bits of whirr and clatter emerge in the piece's second half, and even then such sounds aren't easily identifiable; instead the piece largely plays out as a swirling ambient-drone of near-twelve-minute duration. In addition, two tones oscillate loudly throughout the rather celestial “Firehouse II,” imbuing the piece with a soothing quality in spite of the volume level, and in “El Capitan,” the shuffle of footsteps is heard, but the focal point is nevertheless billowing ambient-drone thrum. Ironically, the one piece that's least conventionally musical is the one whose “I Melt With You” title can't help but invoke Modern English; the setting itself assumes an undeniably abstract character in its melding of blurry rumble, pulsating tones, and what sounds like the faint, metronomic swish of a clock's hands. In the final analysis, it's of minor import whether the recording's field recordings-oriented pieces ultimately register as sound portraits or as ambient music settings, as An Occupied Space holds up more than well enough on purely listening terms.

February 2011