Mathieu Ruhlmann & Banks Bailey: Anáádiih

Though 3LEAVES has issued a number of worthy field recordings-based releases to date, this latest one, a collaborative effort between Mathieu Ruhlmann and Banks Bailey that's available in a run of 100 numbered CD-R copies, is the first we've able to squeeze into our pages—a wrong finally righted. Based in Tucson, Arizona, Bailey is a sound recordist who collects material from remote wilderness areas within the southwestern deserts and mountains of the United States. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Ruhlmann is a sound artist whose works have appeared on numerous labels as well as several compilations. The collaborators take their inspiration for the project from Native American Navajo writing, with the Anáádiih title itself a Navajo word that describes the phase of the moon disappearing. Not surprisingly, all of the sounds are nature-based and industrial environments are conspicuously absent.

Some of the standard outdoors sounds appear—birds chirping, the relentless churn of a river's flow, the rumble and rustle of wind, fire crackle, rain drizzle, the amplified clomp of someone walking through fields—but even when they do, they nevertheless strengthen the sense of place established by the album's material. That's helped by the sometimes exotic bird sounds that emerge—in the opening piece, “With Pollen / Beautiful in His Voice,” the unidentified call is so loud it verges on threatening—as well as the whinny of a horse and the anguished cries of coyotes. Track titles such as “Cactus Spine / The Trail Marked With” and “Where the Blue Kethawns Are / There I Return” strengthen the sense of immersion within the natural world that the project cultivates. Of course, things are not exactly as they might seem. The sound materials have not only been collected but also arranged, such that, even if a given piece simulates an undoctored field recording of a specific time and place, it's more likely the case that it's been stitched together from multiple parts gathered at different locales and times. Certainly the elements have been assembled in such a meticulous way that the illusion is maintained convincingly. That's never more the case than when ripples of thunder make the animals grow increasingly agitated during “This Very Day / Your Spell For Me / You Will Take Out.” The work is also presented in very appealing manner, with the CD housed in a tall cardboard case and the disc itself made to look like a 45 vinyl single.

May 2011