Bryan Eubanks - From the Cistern [Gruen Digital/Gruenrekorder - 2014]Gruen Digital presents From the Cistern, a new digital album by Bryan Eubanks. Eubanks is a musician composer from the Pacific Northwest in the U.S., but currently based in Berlin.
Before diving into the sounds presented on this album, there is an interesting story to the location and environment Eubanks recorded in. The site of recording is the cistern at Fort Warden State Park in North America. This underground structure was originally built to store water for a military installation, but it’s circular cement design makes it a uniquely acoustic environment. As Eubanks notes, the space’s design (with it’s numerous concrete supports) creates a wide array of sound diffraction, refraction, reflection, reverberation, and resonance.
From the Cistern is comprised of 3 tracks: 2 pieces that run under 30 minutes and 1 epic piece that runs over 78 minutes. The first track, appropriately titled “Pulses,” consists of sine waves pulsing their way through the nooks and crannies of the cistern. The pulses kind of remind me of elongated sonar pings, steadily droning on. Eubanks slows down the rate of the pulses as the piece progresses at a glacial pace. “Five Tuned Tubes” follows and is a haunting piece that really plays up the resonance and reverberation of the underground structure. On this piece Eubanks employed 5 plastic tubes played with a tenor saxophone mouthpiece and reed. It’s a disturbing piece with long periods quiet (just the perceptible sound of nothingness in the cistern) disrupted by the dense sounds of the tubes reverberating throughout the structure. The final piece entitled “Sine Series,” is namely 78 minutes of layered sine tones generated throughout the cistern. It’s a massive track of layered drones and periodic passages of silence. As opposed to the former piece, “Sine Series” doesn’t sound haunting, but rather uplifting it the use of high-pitched brighter tones.
When everything is said and done, From the Cistern is an intriguing and focused effort. I’ll be honest, given the length on the pieces and repetitious nature of the recordings, it did feel like an endurance test at times to make it through the entire album. I think the concept of the album intrigues me much more than some of the sounds presented. That said, From the Cistern is something I’d like to experience in a gallery setting as a sound installation. Hal Harmon