Simon Whetham - Un Año Tranquilo [3 Leaves - 2013]"Un Año Tranquilo" finds British sound artist, field recordists & drone maker Simon Whetham creating one long sonic travel log which sees him collecting together recordings from around the world to create a morphing piece of sound art that takes in everything from water & environment recordings, people chatter, ethnic music, bland muzak mixed with field recordings, foreign pop music, insect sounds, traffic sounds, animal recordings, religious chants, ethereal drone matter mixed with boat creaking’s, & other sound matter which is sometimes not easily identifiable- and for me that is one of the key downsides of this release.
You see I like to know the origin of field recording work, and how/why the sounds where recorded, because to me this is a big part of understanding the sound artists reasons & motives for any said release. Apparently this releases elements where recorded in several ‘special locations’ around the world over a year period, then Whetham edited & arranged the field recordings- so you do literal get a sonic travel log here that unfolds in gentle, but often quite a surreal manner, as foreign radio banter & street chatter will morph into dock side like creaking’s, or weird squelching textures will move in billowing wind textures. To me none of it seems to follow any pattern, structure or sonic point, sure all the field recordings are well recorded, and the twists & turns with-in the sound map are often quite rewarding & surprising- but I’m not really very sure what the point of it is & what Whetham is ultimately trying to put across or say here.
The ten page colour booklet that comes with the disc does not really help either in explaining what it’s all about. There are some pictures of rain lashed lochs, small oriental markets dwarfed by huge sky scrapers, deserts scapes & pictures of Whetham recording on wooden walk ways of tranquil water ways. And a very brief write-up about the piece where Whetham vague lists the places as visited as USA, Mexico, China, Japan & Argentina- but there are no specifics on sites, or the reasons for chosing certain sites.
I guess how much you get from "Un Año Tranquilo" is dependent on how you like you’re sound art or field recording based sonic structures to be put across- if you enjoy loosely structured though often quite rewarding long form sound journeys with little meaning, then you’ll find this quite satisfying. But if (like me) you enjoy some structure & reason for sound art or field recording based composition you may find this a little frustrating & at times a little aimless, though as I said early on the track does have some quite interesting twists & turns along it’s 73 minutes length.