The Green Kingdom: The Great Blue Heron
Darren McClure: The Black Kite
Flaming Pines's wonderful Birds of a Feather project continues with two more three-inch CD installments, the third and fourth in the series from The Green Kingdom and Darren McClure (the projected total is twelve releases, which will be issued in pairs over the coming year in individual editions of 100 copies each). The concerns, while fundamentally music-driven, aren't exclusively so, as the label is donating one dollar from each purchase to Birds in Backyards, an education and conservation group focused on urban and suburban birds in Australia. It would be difficult to imagine a more perfect subject matter for ambient soundscaping with a strong field recordings dimension than this one, given how regularly electronic producers thread sounds from the natural world and in particular bird sounds into their creations.
Listeners familiar with The Green Kingdom's output already know there's probably no more perfect candidate for the series than Michael Cottone, given his sensitivity to sound design and nature. The Great Blue Heron presents his attempt to distill the mystery, majesty, and elegance of the titular creature into a sixteen-minute meditation. Consistent with The Green Kingdom style, the piece develops at a measured pace, swelling over the course of many minutes until it becomes a billowing, static-smeared fog within which muffled horn tones are faintly audible. Thumb piano and acoustic guitar accents punctuate the dense, wavering mass, which pulsates and crackles as if in response to the overlaid expressions. Anyone expecting a bird's cry to appear will wait in vain, as Cottone's intent is to evoke the Great Blue Heron as a physical presence gliding in seeming slow-motion through the air rather than simulate any sound it might make. Listening to the material, it's easy to visualize the majestic bird effortlessly floating through the air, its wings dramatically extended.
Darren McClure's The Black Kite offers a dramatically different experience than Cottone's, a key reason being that McClure's piece includes environmental sounds from the field recordings he gathered for the project but also the sounds of the Black Kites themselves. McClure, who's based in Nagano, Japan, collected the field recordings along the Naraigawa River, where he often walks and witnesses the birds flying and scoping out the area for food such as fish and mice. The piece presents an engrossing and ever-mutating travelogue: bird chirps and the whoosh of highway traffic introduce the seventeen-minute setting and are then joined by an abundant stream of synthetic shimmer and sparkle that lends the piece a calming effect. Six minutes in, real-world sounds retreat to cede the spotlight exclusively to organ-like ruminations that give the piece the tone of a quasi-psychedelic drone exploration. Further subtle mutations transpire, however, most notably the addition of flourishes that suggest bird-like calls, before the work reaches its peaceful resolution.
Both releases are excellent additions to what promises to be a remarkable project in its completed form, and, par for the Flaming Pines course, the miniature CDs are housed in sleeves featuring lovely cover illustrations.