Review of Two Lakes [12k1062]

Textura (CA)

Field recordings often function as a secondary element in many electronic productions, where they’re used as textural enhancement and associative colour. In some cases, they’re front and center, so central to the recording that the traditional instruments becoming supporting players. That’s certainly true in the case of Two Lakes, a collaborative work between Australian producers Seaworthy (Cameron Webb) and Matt Rösner, given the degree to which it focuses on the two coastal lake ecosystems at Lakes Meroo and Termeil located on the south coast of New South Wales. In simplest terms, the duo aimed to transmute field recordings of the lakes, beaches, forests, and streams at an Australian coastal setting into musical pieces that would create for the listener sonic spaces for contemplation and reflection.

The immersive production process adopted by the collaborators is a fascinating story unto itself. Having collected field recordings, the two repaired to a nearby lakeside cabin where improvisations were laid down using acoustic and electric guitars, baritone ukulele, bells, percussion, and electronics. On the trip’s last day, the two sketched out rough arrangements from the gathered material, after which Rösner completed the project at his studio in Myalup, a small coastal town on the opposite side of the Australian continent. As if intended to affirm the creators’ focus on the field recordings dimension of the project, the album begins with three minutes of burbling water sounds (“Meroo Rockshelf”) before a harmonium-like drone inaugurates “Meroo Sedgeland Pt. 1” and eventually gives way to natural sounds of rushing water and creatures, which in turn are supplanted by bucolic acoustic guitar playing. Moving fluidly between field recordings and musical passages is a strategy applied throughout. Sometimes, one or the other will be heard in isolation but more often than not they’re woven together with both alternately sharing positions of prominence or sometimes equal dominance. If bird whoops dominate during one section (“Meroo Forest”), electric guitar shadings heard against a river backdrop dominate during another (“Meroo Stream”). But as stated, most often the two elements operate in tandem, as when crashing waves and rustling noises drench an e-Bow drone in “Termeil Dunes.” Nine tracks are indexed and titled, but the project unfolds as an uninterrupted if episodic thirty-nine-minute piece. That there’s a rather lonely quality to the album can perhaps be attributed to the fact that the musical elements are presented starkly. At a given moment, there might be no more than two instrument sounds in play along with the field recording elements. Drone-like and acoustically enhanced, the musical material presents itself unhurriedly, which bolsters the recording’s ruminative character.

Two Lakes can be heard as a blend of Seaworthy’s guitar playing with Rösner’s field recordings and electronics but of course no such separation asserts itself when one is listening to the album. If anything, the artists come across as equally self-effacing in their willingness to assume a deferential background presence so that the evocations of the settings wrought by the field recordings can move to the forefront. The accompanying press notes aren’t inaccurate in suggesting that the music Rösner and Webb created on Two Lakes can sometimes seem as if it was indeed “composed by the lakes themselves.”

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