Review of 1897 [12k1053]

Brainwashed (.COM)

Heavily sourced from both field recordings and guitar, the material on this disc gives the natural color of its geographic location: an ammunitions bunker and its surrounding wilderness the spotlight. As a whole the pieces are staunchly minimalist, allowing the core sounds to be the focus rather than a great deal of electronics or processing, which is surely artist Cameron Webb’s intent with this work.

The most literal interpretations of the theme that can be heard here are the two “Inside” tracks (both sequenced towards the early part of the disc), and the closing “Outside.” The former two are brief, but are slow motion studies of reverb, all leaning on the dark and obfuscated elements of that effect. Given it was recording in a massive decommissioned bunker, it is entirely likely that the reverb is more the product of actual environment instead of traditional VST plugins. The converse is the album closer, “Outside,” which is exactly that: a lush field recording of rain enveloping the mix, with some far off bird calls to signify the light outside of the massive, cold structure.

The pieces in between these two take different directions, but continue to use similar themes throughout. With the exception of its first part, the six pieces of “Ammunition” focuses mostly on the clear sounds of untreated guitar. The plaintive, looped guitar notes are the focus, with the occasional piece of glitch texture or electronic pulse to show up, but almost always remaining extremely subtle, to leave the focus on the organic guitar. The “Ammunition” suite does, however, open with a passage of humming and buzzing, with melodic beeps, while it closes with static, frigid tones, a small amount of static, and the birds chirping in the distance.

The three-piece “Installation” suite emphasizes the digital sounds more, but still with Webb’s sense of restraint. The first part is fuzzy opaque static—not quite distortion, yet thick and dense—with swells of melody below the grimy noisier elements. The second segment continues this, allowing delicate chiming tones and other soft elements to occasionally rise to the surface above rattling electronics and ground hum distortion. The set closes with swirling guitar and bird calls, though still secondary to the synthetic and processed sounds, but never being too obscured.

The recording location for these tracks could undoubtedly be said to have influenced the sound, because the disc is a perfect sonic metaphor for an empty ammunitions bunker within a delicate ecosystem and nature preserve. With extreme restraint digital instrumentation, traditional guitar, and field recordings are allowed to coexist, and I don’t think it is an accident that the most memorable sounds are the natural ones when all is said and done. – Creaig Dunton

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