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Michael Lightborne - Ring Road Ring [Gruenrekorder - 2020]

Ring Road Ring is a twelve-inch vinyl release that brings together around half-an-hours worth of road field recordings captured by contact microphones attached to the concrete pylons around the Ring Road, which loops around the city of Coventry in the West Midlands. The recordings here go from untreated & lightly manipulated/ arranged- with the sonic pallet moving from melancholically droning, muffled almost beat like texturing, and churning industrial-like sonic constructions.

The release appeared this year on highly respected German field recording/ sound art label Gruenrekorder. The plain black vinyl is presented inside a manila card sleeve- that features minimal grey texts. Inside we get a gloss monochrome inner slip- this takes in close up pictures of ring road bridges, as well as a double-sided grey inlay paper- this features on one side a  write-up about the release/ project, and a map of the ring road on the reverse. With each side featuring a locked groove at the end of it

The release kicks off with the longest & apparently least untouched track “Ring Road Ring”. It runs at just over the eleven-minute mark, and to start with we have spinning & hacking drone element- which is both angular & violently brooding in its attack. As the track progresses we get slightly knock sub-tones coming off the key tones, and at the three-minute mark these develop into more pronounced ticks & snaps, which map out an almost rhythmic tolling pattern. At the around the six-minute mark, the produced drone fades, and we get a selection of knocking & ticking textures. In the last minute & a half, we get a muffled & sort haze buzzing loop, which is joined by the more knocking tonality.

Next, we have the four & a half minutes of "Fortran"- here we get this blend of low-fi slicing & swooping looped tones, distant stream like chugs, and rotating like moody drone shimmer- I rather enjoyed the spinning 'n' spiralling almost bleak groove of this track.  As we move on the second side come to the just over three & a half minutes of “Moebius Loop”- which brings together ominous glow drone purr, with brooding knocks & scraps. There’s the amassed malevolent alien robot-like chatter of “Shepherds Tone” which slides in at the two & a half minute mark. Then the release is topped off with the just over five minutes “Ring Cycles”- it adds in electromagnetic induction coil recordings to mix- these apparent emanate from the ring road structure, and these are added to this distant spinning & swooping tones on the road.

The concept/ idea behind Ring Road Ring is certainly intriguing, and at points rewarding, as there are some most worthy sounds captured. I think the issue is that more often than not the tracks are over too fast, so the more satisfying tones don’t have time to sink in. I, of course, understand that these are largely untreated field recordings- but I feel maybe it would have been better if one side of the release was untreated field recordings, and the second was more manipulated/ stretched out tones. Anyway, certainly another distinct & worthy field recording release from Gruenrekorder, which would work as a great audio backdrop to one of J.G Ballad more fetishised & chilling automobile novels.

Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5

Roger Batty
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