Isnaj Dui: Protective Displacement
Clem Leek: Home Outside
In which Isnaj Dui, Clem Leek, and, in combination, offthesky and Ten & Tracer contribute three memorable additions to Rural Colours' series of three-inch releases.
Isnaj Dui's (Katie English) Protective Displacement developed from recordings made of a clock that had belonged to her great grandparents and that had been passed down through her family. Such source material provided English with an inspiring starting-point for the piece in enabling her to weave the sounds of clock-generated chimes and mechanism plucks into a nineteen-minute reverie of becalmed character. Her classical flute background is heavily drawn upon as well, as the clock sounds that inaugurate the piece are augmented by the dreamy tones of her bass and concert flutes. Not only do the clock sounds distinguish the piece but so too does the natural timbre of the woodwind instrument, a detail that stands out all the more given that most other artists would have simulated the flute's sound using synthetic means. What results is a subdued and peaceful setting whose drifting meander proves hypnotic, and the piece sidesteps repetition by re-introducing its flute and clock sounds in different ways throughout. If at one moment, for example, the material is scaled down to feature flute playing only, during another the shimmer of chimes can be heard punctuating the flutes' soft cross-patterning. Protective Displacement might be heard as a satisfying addendum to Unstable Equilibrium, her 2009 full-length on Home Normal, and a promising harbinger of things to come.
Like English's release, Clem Leek's Home Outside is a single-track work but one rooted in a much different concept, even if the UK-based Leek has woven flute playing by Isnaj Dui into his piece's shimmering, multi-layered tapestry of sound. In this case Leek created a soundscape in response to twenty photographic images and attempted to distill into the work the feelings he has for his natural surroundings. Not surprisingly, then, one hears the clump of feet trudging through undergrowth and birds chirping alongside the piece's shimmering tones and textures. The result turns out to be a bit like English's in the way in which the myriad sounds populating Home Outside disappear and re-appear during its eighteen-minute running time. In this case, however, the sounds that emerge are ones produced by acoustic instruments such as violin and guitar as well as some field recordings. Leek cultivates a powerful emotional mood, specifically one of yearning, in the way the various instruments' tones appear to be expressing themselves so plaitively. The sounds collect to form a pulsating cloud of contrasting colour that does more than drift at a single level of intensity; instead, the mass rises to a crescendo of sorts at about the fourteen-minute mark before a gradual deflation sets in. In a final Isnaj Dui parallel, Home Outside registers as a worthy complement to Leek's recent Hibernate full-length Holly Lane.
The collaborative venture by offthesky and Ten & Tracer (Kentucky neighbors Jason Corder and Jonathan Canupp) is somewhat of the wild card of the three, so to speak, in that it features four song-length tracks, with three of them also featuring the violin playing of Pillow Garden's Sarah Chung. We're told that, for this project, Corder and Canupp plundered a decaying assortment of “rotting old records” and “soiled cassettes,” and subsequently transmuted such “abysmal found sound” into the EP's four settings. True enough, the pieces play like blurry, doom-laden soundscapes dredged up from the murkiest depths of consciousness. An occasional recognizable instrument, such as an acoustic guitar or violin, separates itself from the rumble and shudder in such a way that some semblance of sanity is imposed upon the otherwise disoriented flow. After “Wavesmadedifferential” presents a gloomy nightscape for Chung's violin to woozily glide over, “To All the Twelve Year Old Girls Who Buy Our Tapes” appears—not the kind of love letter such pre-teens are used to receiving, as Corder and Canupp conjure a sonic torture chamber from their eroded source materials. The slow-motion ambient-drone “Long Playing Static” ends the EP on a less harrowing note, though even here the underlying mood is more disturbed than becalmed. In this case, we're clearly a long way from the soothing splendour of Protective Displacement.