Novi_sad: Wound_Burner
Sub Rosa

Operating under the Novi_sad alias, Athens-based Thanasis Kaproulias (b. 1980) supplemented environmental and urban field recordings collected from New York, Gotland, Rio De Janeiro, and the Greek countryside with the voice of soprano Irini Kyriakidou and sounds generated by digital and electronic media to craft Wound_Burner. Instantiating the cinema pour l'oreille' (cinema for the ear) approach to sound sculpting, the forty-five-minute soundscape is a production of considerable visceral power, attributable in part to eruptions that punctuate the sound mass early on and keep one on edge, bracing for more.

After blurry urban-industrial field recordings of voices, sirens, car horns, and ambient noise inaugurate the work, a threatening undercurrent of bass-heavy rumble is added as an additional layer near the three-minute mark, its appearance foreshadowing the blasts to come. Seven minutes in, Kaproulias challenges expectations by bringing the material down to a near-whisper rather than continuing the escalation, even if the two jarring eruptions that follow are felt all the more intensely as a result. That event aside, Kaproulias opts for a balanced, smooth-flowing presentation whose mutations occur with patient deliberation. A case in point, Kyriakidou's mournful voice emerges from a metallic drone episode at the fifteen-minute juncture but so subtly it feels like a ghostly presence drifting through the background. It's not uncommon for passages of extreme density to alternate with minimal sequences of calmer disposition that allow the listener to relax, even if only for a moment. During one such section, a wavering, organ-like drone dominates until water-based field recordings, Kyriakidou's wordless warble, and bird chatter are added, layer by layer. An artfully executed reverse trajectory subsequently transpires when the layered elements slowly disappear, leaving the drone to bring the piece to a becalmed resolution.

Put simply, there's nuance in Kaproulias's handling of his materials, as well as an impressive display of technical ability in his assembly of the soundscape's parts. Though Wound_Burner ultimately registers as an abstract work amenable to any number of interpretations, it's no less engrossing for being so open-ended.

June 2017