Bjarni Gunnarsson: Processes & Potentials
3LEAVES These Walls Resemble Absence

Field recordings releases often fall into one of two categories: those whose programmatic dimension is fully clarified versus those whose sounds are severed from context. Rui Almeida's release, These Walls Resemble Absence, clearly belongs to the former group in rooting itself in sounds associated with an abandoned textile factory located in northern Portugal on the banks of the Vizela River. Closed since 2001, the site has undergone a significant degree of degradation, as evidenced by a pronounced accumulation of debris, unstable roof and beam structures, and a feeling of emptiness that left a powerful impression upon Almeida during his visits. It was during his second tour that he became uncomfortably aware of just how unsafe the factory had become when strong winds made the roof's creaking and the door's hinges so audible he felt as if the building might collapse at any moment.

In a sense, These Walls Resemble Absence is intended as a memory work, one designed to commemorate sounds destined to vanish in the not-too-distant future. With that in mind, Almeida moved through the setting, recording materials as he encountered them and attempting to distill their essence into the two long-form settings featured on the recording. As one listens to the forty-three-minute set, the space becomes alive, sometimes creepily so, and one is able to visualize, even if at times tentatively, the objects recorded. Against an industrial thrum of hiss, creaks and rustlings appear, as do percussive strikes that resemble muffled tom-toms and scrapes that suggest a bow being dragged across a violin string. Other elements likewise suggest musical connections, such as the playful kalimba-like noises with which the second piece begins. Perhaps the thing one notices most, however, is the barrenness of the space, something the field recordist often accentuates by zeroing in on the sounds of a single object, such as the tinklings that crackle halfway through the second piece.

Titles for the six pieces on Gunnarsson's Processes & Potentials are included, as are six square inserts displaying nature-based photos by Cedric Dupire. But while both are allusive, the material is otherwise free of informational context, and one thus engages with the album more at the level of pure listening. The product of three years work, Processes & Potentials is a combustible affair of fluid, mutating sounds that, as astutely noted by its creator, “consists not of things, but of events, and as such is best understood as being a process.” Compared to the release, Gunnarsson's is considerably denser and often suggests an accelerated transformational flow of geological design. The hardness of certain sounds draws a connection to earth materials, whereas the rapid changes are more suggestive of liquids. Restless and dynamic, the six settings are volatile constructions that can induce some degree of delirium in the listener attending closely to their rapid-fire fluctuations. Sensitive to the benefits of contrast, Gunnarsson follows the aggressive pitch of the opening two settings with an initially quieter excursion (the woozy “Momentaries”), even if blasts and cavernous rumblings eventually surface. Interestingly, as the recording progresses, one comes to realize that the wealth of micro-detail packed into its pieces makes Processes & Potentials as much resemble a computer-based collection (by someone such as Florian Hecker or Francisco Lopez) as a field recordings-based one. Finally, on presentation grounds, both releases are packaged in 3LEAVES' by now standard but nevertheless distinctive black case design.

November 2013