Andreas Bick - Fire and Frost Pattern [Gruenrekorder - 2011]
When he’s not composing music for German film, TV and radio, Berlin-based artist Andreas Bick can be found out and about recording the natural environment. Fire and Frost Pattern collects together two distinctly related works of his field recordings first composed (in 2006 and 2007 respectively) for Klangkunst, a weekly show on Deutschlandradio Kultur dedicated to sound art.
Fire Pattern works very much as an exhibition exploiting the sound-producing properties of flames of different sizes found in active volcanoes, on training grounds for airport fireworkers and in small glass tubes and bottles. It begins with the eruptions and thunderous wake of volcanic activity before entering less easily defined territories as dual layers of a grainy drone imitate an aeroplane’s engine. This leads on to several vignettes, often preceded by whooshes of ignition that zoom in on the ensuing smaller sounds. Here we find impressions of waves breaking, followed by growing clusters of spit and hiss forming restless complaints, and a giant’s footsteps perhaps wandering from volcano to volcano to light them like candles. Midway through, tubular putters introduce a gurgling geyser as things get apocalyptic once more before quelling down into the rhythmic interplay of the crackle ‘n’ hiss of hot embers. The piece ends most remarkably with long, low notes not unlike those of a didgeridoo building into a kind of druidic raga.
Frost Pattern also displays the dynamic ranges of a collection of recordings, this time from various bodies of ice. Starting again with the loudest: an iceberg colliding with the Antarctic shelf, the piece plots a path through frozen lakes that mix underwater ambience with surface noise, glacial ice effervescing as it melts in a bathtub, different types of snow falling on aluminium foil and an ice floe’s thirst-quenching clinks. Once again, these sounds hurtle their blind audience through contrasts of scale, tone and timbre not to describe the corresponding object or event, but to reveal their sonic qualities. In this way, open air destruction on a gargantuan scale builds into climactic cannon fire followed by deep, rich extended tones suggesting an oversize bowed string instrument, before shrinking down to delicate small rustling movements like a series of tiny insects hatching. Later, rising rumbles and thunderous movements introduce what could be sci-fi laser gun shots only to be replaced by more earthly sounds of ripping cracks and low end groans that set in relief the trickle of rivulets or the tap dance of needle-fine dripping.
While the sounds presented here are exquisitely preserved and save any listener the danger of braving a volcano’s eruptions or an iceberg’s flow to bathe in their respective soundworlds, the most intriguing aspect is their similarities and differences. Bick has clearly sequenced both pieces to carefully highlight any coincidences: they both begin with the most thunderous events and conclude with smaller, rhythmic passages across an almost identical timeline. However, the clear labelling of each piece combined with amount of detail in the booklet accompanying the disk mean that one is likely to come to these pieces primed as to their significance, perhaps obscuring further similarities from revealing themselves. But this does nothing to stop both pieces from being fine examples of the sensual pleasure that can be drawn from non-musical documentaries of the living world when handled as expertly as Bick does here. I wonder what they sound like when played together?Russell Cuzner