Jamie Drouin: A Three Month Warm Up
Dragon's Eye Recordings

Sublamp: Breathletters
Dragon's Eye Recordings

Available in editions of 250 CD-Rs, Jamie Drouin's A Three Month Warm Up and Sublamp's Breathletters are fine new additions to the Dragon's Eye catalogue.

A site specific work created by Drouin for a 2009 Art Gallery of Greater Victoria exhibition, A Three Month Warm Up presents an uninterrupted windstorm assembled from 124 individual field recordings made in an outdoor public square in Victoria, British Columbia over a three-month period. Though Drouin took his inspiration from the multitude of notes heard during a symphony orchestra's warm-up, he shapes those varying instrument sounds into a singular mass, specifically a blurry behemoth that seethes, rumbles, and howls for seventy-seven minutes. Drouin filtered down the original recordings to their essence and then layered them to form the gargantuan mass documented on the recording. Imagine the sounds a microphone would pick up dangling from the wing of a 747 at its greatest height and you'll have a pretty good idea of what the recording sounds like. It's not a monochromatic drone, however; muffled traces of instrument tones and pitches can be detected at the center, seemingly struggling to wrest themselves from the vortex and separate from the mass. The piece also undergoes subtle changes in intensity, with the feverish pitch of one section giving way to a more subdued attack halfway through. Fifty minutes in, string tones briefly surge to the forefront before becoming mere whispers murmuring at the periphery. When the piece comes to a close, it disappears into silence like a plane gradually vanishing into the sky. Drouin never falters in sustaining the captivating work's impact as it repeatedly undergoes, often almost imperceptibly, such metamorphoses.

That Los Angeles-based Ryan Connor was raised by scientist parents in national park and rocky mountain settings might begin to explain why his Sublamp material exudes such textural richness. Electronically expanding upon the timbral characteristics of acoustic instruments such as glockenspiel, guitar, violin, electric bass, and hammered metal, the thirty-nine-minute Breathletters weaves nine settings into a tapestry of hypnotic ambiance. Fleshing out the material with field recordings, Connor allows each placid setting to gently flower and then slowly decay as it flows into the one following. The pieces are detailed, meditative drone settings of shape-shifting character, with clearly discernible contrasts emerging as each one appears. In some settings, instruments lose their identifying character—the metallic rivulets that make up “Monophoneme,” for example, are presumably guitar-generated but the sound is abstracted just enough that another instrument could very well be the source—whereas in others the natural sonorities of a particular instrument are audible; in “Like Spiders on the Fox's Tongue,” for instance, a violin can clearly be heard sawing over an otherwise dense mass. Breathletters impresses as refined on both compositional and production grounds, a quality immediately evident in the opening piece, “Echolalic,” where a meditative gamelan setting is formed from soft percussive rustlings, glimmering bell tones, and faint bass pulses. Elsewhere, industrial reverberations give “Dust Lessons” a metallic character, while the breath-like wheeze of organ tones dominates “Mouseblood.” Another of the album's strengths is its concision, with the tracks feeling like complete statements despite the fact that they're no more than three to five minutes in length.

September 2009