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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Roland Etzin - TransMongolian [Gruenrekorder - 2012]

“TransMongolian” offers up six unprocessed field recording portraits of a journey along Trans Mongolian railway,which runs four thousand five hundred miles between Russian & Japan.

Roland Etzin is a German based sound artists/ field recordist who has been working in the sound art genre since the early 2000’s. He’s also the co-founder of the Gruenrekorder label with fellow sound artist Lasse-Marc Riek. “TransMongolian” is Etzins’ first full length recording in six or so years, through his work has featured on several sound art compilations inbetween releases. The album features field recordings made by Etzin in the late summer to early autumn of 2010.

Our journey starts off in Russian with the near on twelve and a half minutes of “Portrait one”. This track starts off been built around what sounds like a recording a large enclosed  area( a main train hall/ ticket hall?); with bangng & clunking of work men going on, distant grinding & drillings , and the odd echoing footsteps.  At around the five minute mark the hallway recordings thin out, and it now sounds like we’re on the train as we hear a growing mixture of train type sounds: such as electric type droning, rumbling carriage sound, slicing rail sounds, and perhaps the sound of automated doors or stream.


Onto “Portrait two” and we’ve now moved in China, and this dead on seven minute track starts with a weird looped & growing mass of chipping textures(which sounds like mechanical birds) & building people chatter. Before dropping into the series of weird vibrating & juddering textures that sound like either someone sliding a squeaking door or someone getting in/out of a boat- these sounds are broken up by brief silences, or distant mechanical tumbling sounds that seem to have almost water-like-rocking-in-a-boat edges to them. The track ends with fading rail scraping sounds.

“Portrait three” finds us at Lake Baikal; which runs between the Russian region of Siberia to the south,  between the Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryat Republic to the southeast- it’s also the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world. The just under ten minute track starts off been built around this weird sizzling/ splashing element that could either originate from water or heated up-then-splashed boiling liquid…or maybe a mixture of both of these-what ever the recording is of it’s one of the most captivating & appealing moments here. At around the mid-way point the track switches to the soothing and detailed sound of water lapping against the shore.

Onto “Portrait Four”, and this just under six minute track finds us in Mongolian. The track starts with a fairly muffled a vague mixture of running footsteps, bug buzzing, distant human sounds & dog barking.  Fairly soon the high up whoosh of an airplane, closer people chatter, and more bug buzzing can be heard, before we moving into a series of appealing wooden step like creaking’s & bowings.

“Portrait Five”  was recording in South Korea, and comes in at just shy of the eight minute mark. This track starts off with a mixture of carriage creaking, steaming hissing & weird treading water/wood type sounds.  Around the two minute twenty mark we move into this mixture of weird panning hissing sound &  amassed sound of chattering birds. Then latter on we move onto more station like sounds with ringing bells, creaking trains, and almost harmonic  amassed tumbling’s- which I’m guess is some large glass or metal recycling skip been empted.

Lastly we have the just under ten minutes of “Portrait  Six”,which finds us in Japan. And this starts with a amassed sound of arcade game machine melodies, cheesy lift music & darts of dance music ect… I guess Etzin was making his way through a large gaming arcade.  Around the three minute mark these sounds fade, and a churning/ buffeting texture grows- it sounds like it could be recorded in the back of a small boat that’s chugging along a quiet waterway. By the 5th minute distant bird type chatter has been added along with the sound of a passing train, before we move into the slowly growing sound of approaching footsteps.


“TransMongolian” is a most satisfying & appealing field recording album which finds Etzin keeping your attention through-out as you follow him on his sonic journey. He has a great ear for intriguing and interesting sound, and quite often you can’t quite figure out exactly what it is he’s recorded which adds another rewarding layer to the release.

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

Roger Batty
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