Richard Ginns: Sea Change
Slow Flow Rec

Letna: Adria

Though no instrumentation details are provided aside from the note that “sounds were made or captured” by Richard Ginns and that the album was recorded between 2010 and 2011 in Manchester, England, Sea Change falls comfortably within the electroacoustic ambient-soundscaping genre. Based on the evidence at hand, guitars, field recordings, electronics, and digital means appear to have been used to generate the album's forty-seven, heavily textured minutes. A typical piece presents a dense thicket of hazy textures and crackle within which fragments of acoustic guitar and streams of ambient tones rise and fall, the sum total of which produces a mood of pastoral peacefulness. While it's not programmatic in the strict sense, Ginn's music does suggest the gentle ebb and flow of water and its lulling movements, with dribbling sounds in the meditative title piece most overtly referencing the album's thematic content.

The opening piece “Riverbank,” ten minutes of ambient drift speckled with processed guitar shadings and field recording noises, introduces the album on an almost unassuming note, with the listener being subtly guided into Ginn's world. A greater sense of place infuses “On Lakes,” where one feels as if one is at the actual locale, in this case a shoreline on a hot and humid summer afternoon with the natural world's presence strongly felt. During “Mossbank,” thick swathes of crackle and hiss act as a fog-like scrim through which long-past sound materials undergo resurrection. Real-world sounds figure prominently into the long-form “Looking North,” with loud, harbour-associated creaks and clatter resounding amidst bucolic shadings of guitars and ambient atmosphere. Ginn himself references lo-fi Polaroid photography as a helpful analogue to the sound material, the idea being that the musical content might function as both tinted evocations refracted through memory and sound portraits that transcend a particular moment in time through a recording process that enables them to endure. If, then, the album's settings are suffused with nostalgia, that would be in keeping with Ginn's intentions. Sea Change is, after all, inspired by memories of childhood visits to the seaside, and it would be hard to think of any memory more permeated by fondness and longing than those.

The music Serbian-born French composer Sasa Vojvodic produces under the Letna name is very much kindred in spirit to Ginn's. In fact, Vojvodic's latest Letna collection Adria (available digitally as well as in a limited edition of 100 copies) so deeply embraces the electroacoustic ambient world that it's hard to imagine Vojvodic was at one time involved in the French undergound hip-hop scene during the ‘90s, though it's much easier to picture the eventual gravitation towards the clicks-and-cuts genre that came later. His style evolved further when sampled materials assumed a more prominent place within his productions and when the guitar likewise became a central element, a development that occurred when he co-founded the SEM label with Alexandre Navarro in 2007. In contrast to Ginn's album, Letna's Adria hews to short settings, with none of its eleven pushing past the five-minute mark, and its thirty-nine-minute total is also slightly less than Ginn's. Like Sea Change, however, Adria often integrates field recording elements into its meditations and in so doing expands upon the album's core electroacoustic style.

The album's packed with densely layered fields of ambient hiss, electronic textures, acoustic strums, and processed guitar flutterings (e.g., “Orjen”), and lovely, peaceful settings such as “Mont Lovcen” and “Cg” abound. In “Biograsko Jezero,” chiming electric fragments thread themselves through a warm, multi-layered pool of flickering haze. With acoustic guitar playing enveloped by ambient hiss, “Tara” exudes a softer ambiance and more delicate character that lend it an introspective quality. There are even moments where Letna's material could be mistaken for Ginn's (and vice-versa), such as when water and outdoors sounds flow through Adria's peaceful “Zajedno Do Kraja” and “Jadransko More” settings. It goes without saying that Sea Change and Adria make a natural listening pair.

September 2011