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The Psychogeographical Commission - Widdershins [Acrobiotic Records - 2011]

The inner circle of the Glasgow Subway system doesn’t immediately suggest a venue for ritual. Its modern carriages merely ensure busy people reach their desired destination efficiently, unaware of their precise location until a big, clear sign rushes in to view. It’s a collectively ignored experience, an interim between A and B, where most seem encouraged to block out the environment by book or rag, phone or ad, as they’re herded beneath the city surface.

And yet, as the mysterious Psychogeographical Commission point out, the anticlockwise travelling of the subway’s inner circle can be viewed as a constant banishing ritual first performed in the late nineteenth century when an accident that stalled its opening provided a blood sacrifice distributed circuitously ever since.

With ‘Widdershins’ the duo of S.: and Hokano once again seek to address this disconnect they perceive between urban dwellers and their local mythologies. However, while their previous releases have more generally encouraged listeners to re-evaluate city situations through treated layers of ambient guitar and electronics to soundtrack exploratory strolls along lost rivers and secret historical tramways, ‘Widdershins’ is a straight recording of the noise of travelling on Glasgow’s underground.

Or is it? Through concentrating on the sounds of this 24 minute journey with its beeping electronic doors bookending the rhythmic rush of wheels as the engine accelerates and decelerates, one starts to perceive a change in mood, or a subtle presence, as the detail of the once familiar noises starts to reveal new qualities. Have The Commission deftly tweaked the tube sounds to invoke a sense of dread and otherness or have they merely separated the sound from its source and presented it in such a way that we finally take notice of what was there all along?

Either way it makes for a compelling listening, especially when using similar transport, bathing a journey in its altered light. Indeed, the duo apparently played the recording back into its source on a subsequent late night round trip and, in doing so, inspired aggression in those passengers who erroneously responded to its beeping doors as the recording fell out of sync with the train and, perhaps, the protection afforded by Glasgow’s secret banishing ritual.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Russell Cuzner
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