Angus Carlyle - Some Memories Of Bamboo [Gruenrekorder - 2009]There’s a thin line between rewarding, captivating & interesting field recordings. And badly executed, edited & rather boring field recording work- sadly & rather frustratingly “Some Memories Of Bamboo” often cross back & forth over said line.
Angus Carlyle is a field recordist, researcher and teacher at the University of the Arts in London. He works with mainly unprocessed field recordings, and has now released on Gruenrekorder- one collaborative recording with Rupert Cox(2012’s Air Pressure), and featured on a few compilations on the label too.
“Some Memories Of Bamboo” is based around recordings made by Carlyle over a three week period in 2009 in Kami-Katsura. Which is a small suburban district in Kyoto, Japan. The area is bounded to the east by residential and light industrial areas that run up to the Hozu River, to the west it is held in check by wooded slopes and valleys where the population falls away as the altitude gently climbs.
The release starts off badly with the track “Kiyosumi”, which finds the chatter of a oriental boy throwing rocks in a stream, and Carlyle monotone English voice saying “I’ll watch, I’ll watch” in a rather tired manner. Thankfully the track only last just over a minute, but it’s terrible indulgent, and I’m not sure what we meant to gain from it?!. Carlyle's voice appears latter on again in the track “Bamboo Harvest”. To start with the track offers up marginal interest with various bird songs calls, through the start is rather blown out by a airplane recording. Then we get some rather uninteresting trampling through a field recordings, which are followed with a mixture of guide chatter, and Carlyle's voice again- after this we have some quite effective sounds of bamboo being chopped & bird song. Why oh, why couldn’t he have edited out the bland walking elements, the airplane & most of all his voice?.
There are of course moments here when he does get it right, take the track “Two cafes” which mixers oriental chatter, newspaper folding, glass knocking & western easy listen radio station drift. The tracks is most captivating, and rewarding, and he really nicely captures the feeling of the café’s very well. Another success is “Saihoji Gawa” where he captures a mixture of close miked water recordings- which takes in all manner of rushes, trickles, drips and bubbles. Also mixed in are the odd bird sound too, and these go from a distant squawking to a more tuneful chatter. The track really gives one the feeling they could almost reach into the speakers & feel the water rushing over thier hands.
But then we have the rather dull bus journey field recordings of the truly boring “Bus Is Bas, Train Is Densha. The track finds Carlyle recording the sound from inside a bus as it judders along & we get oriental announcements of stops- the near on eight minute track is so dull & uneventful, and the juddering sounds are not even vaguely rewarding
On the positive side the release looks kind of neat in it’s distinctive small long booklet like digpak form. It's artwork unitizing blocks, lines & texts on mainly black, green, white colour scheme. With the sleeve opening up to the CD at the bottom of the package, & the booklet above it- Gruenrekorder design department have made a really distinctive bit of packaging here.
But ultimately you can’t purely judge something by it’s packaging, and sadly the audio part of “Some Memories Of Bamboo” is extremely mixed in quality,execution & concept. I’m sure there are more interesting/rewarding sounds with-in the Kami-Katsura area, and from time to time he mangers to capture them, but sadly on other occasions his ego, and badly edited/ conceived recordings get in the way.Roger Batty