Review of Map In Hand [12k1040]

Cyclic Defrost (AU)

Sydney-based trio Seaworthy’s Map in Hand was originally released as a super limited edition on the Feral Media label in 2005, but has now been remastered and reissued (with extra tracks) on Taylor Deupree’s 12k label.

The album opens with a field recording of birds before moving into a prologue of slow sustained guitar tones. This sets the mood for a release which is an exemplary exercise in pastoral minimalism and restraint.

The dominant instrument on the album is electric guitar – but it’s played in a way we don’t often hear. Guitarist Cameron Webb makes much use of a device called an e-bow, which allows the player to produce held notes which will sustain indefinitely, until the player either moves to another fret, or lifts the device from the string. At times one is reminded of Robert Fripp, but minus the bite, and slowed down to 16rpm. At other times the guitar playing has the lugubrious quality of Tortoise (as on “Along the Banks of Rivers” from Millions Now Living Will Never Die). These basic sounds are coloured with subtle processing and embellishments, and one can even detect the sound of crackling guitar leads and jack plugs used as part of the sonic vocabulary.

Aside from the field recordings which bookend the set, the disc consists of “Map in Hand pts 1-7”, plus prologue, epilogue etc. This album doesn’t really “go” anywhere – but that’s just fine, because the space it explores is rich, open, lush and natural. This is made clear in the Seaworthy live experience, where Webb performs with a backdrop of slide projections from his field trips into natural habitats (he’s an ecologist by trade, apparently). – Ewan Burke

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