Bear Ground – The sound of objects / the object of sound.

I’ve had the most glorious day today with this CD caressing my ears.

My assumption on this blog is that I speak mostly to those who don’t know much about this sort of music, but a fast analysis of my stats on the weekend revealed that (sigh) my experimental music posts are not very popular (compared with art and film and … well… everything) at least in a comparative sense. I’m not such a snob as to assume anyone out there needs ‘educating’ (shoot me if I ever want or try to do that to anyone) but I do like the idea of revealing something you may not have seen before – just as I love to gain knowledge from my friends via conversation and a vehement addiction to looking everything up that anyone mentions to me – ever!

So, its in the spirit of this that I will keep up with these posts. And also, if truth be known, I am so in love with this music it would be a lie for me to leave it off this virtual documentation of my creative travels. Imagine – me speaking about great art with no mention of a Ryu Hankil or a Patrick Farmer?  There is no art without these sound craftsmen (take that any way you want) and I can’t imagine a world without them now.

Which brings me back to my point about the abject beauty I indulged in today.

I’ve been listening to Bear Ground, by the UK quartet of Matt Milton, David Thomas, Ryan Jewell and Patrick Farmer. The album is released on Creative Sources.

The three tracks of Bear Ground are informed gentle snippets of sound soul.  I listened to the tracks over and over on my i pod this week and then cranked the volume on my speakers at home. Bear Ground is the following:

Matt Milton (Violin, objects)

David Thomas (Viola, bamboo)

Ryan Jewell (Snare drum, voice, breath)

Patrick Farmer (Drum, objects)

The CD object includes beautiful photographic image work by Patrick Farmer – feathers, leaves, bark, sticks, dirt roots etc. The images imply the downward spiral of layering, the journey into a vibrating stillness that lies at the pulsing heart of the listening experience.  I’m no adept when it comes to this music, I regularly can’t tell instrument from instrument, so for me I am left with my own experience of the sound, the morphing of everything into its totality, scrapes indistinguishable from plucks, squeaks all a part of the percussion intrusion.

Track one swooped in on me with a wind/scrape/wind experience filled with promise. A static attack and we are in, launched into the familiar scrapes of strings against the unfamiliar cracks and whistles and crashes of improv. There is a stillness behind the experience with the exception of a rather loud sound at about nine minutes in on track one that sneaks up on me every time. This sound comes from a high-pitched chirping like ricochet of sound that withdraw when one note moves into an almost perpetual drone/squeal that wakes me up to lilting peace of the rest of the track. This feedback style sound waxes and wanes into and through me insisting I make a place for it in the belly of my understanding. it dissolves again into it chirpy peeps, and slips its way into oblivion with a perfectly timed percussive primal cry. From there the sound is almost like the triumphant cry of Gabrielle’s horn. I am listening to the cd again now – very loud – where as I had it down quite soft on my i pod, so it is breaking its way into me, marching around me seven times to obliterate my walls with its triumphant cry, a perfectly timed climax against the slow build up from the earlier parts of the track. This triumph morphs into a “beez-buzz-drone” of a noise, the strings and percussion (objects) making filling out the spaces such that I feel engulfed in a breaths rush ocean of sound that takes the threads of my thoughts and races with them into an unknown future that calls.

On track two the strings offer me some relief with their memory-infused chords so I can relax into them and enjoy the focus more on the other sounds around. Less seems to “happen” with track two, but then it does serve as a guiding hand in a way, an almost informing on the other two tracks. When the traditional string sound gives way to the instance of the squeaks and the controlled chorus-like rise of the other sounds, it feels like being hand-held from a deep past and pushed into a swirling triumphant world of a new dawn. It’s the build up and on of track two that carries its symphonic power from the squeak of a turntable to the thunder of its final chorus.

Track three starts has a similar start with its squeaks and chirping bird-song-frog-croak-like ear licking tickle of a sound. This time I am made to deal with the perpetual grind of a turning something that slides in and over a breathy puffing as if a balloon were being squeezed of its air, vacuum packed and promised. There is a stronger music ‘feel’ to this final piece and I think it may have something to do with the earlier tracks – I’ve been taught how to listen. Track three seems to be the swell that I was waiting for, no – promised in the earlier two tracks. Rhythmic claps come alive and perpetual turning sings like a voice. This continues in a chorus of beautiful until suddenly at around 14 minutes the track bursts into an almost silence, punctuated only by the lightest feather touches of skin-stoking sound. At 15.08 this dissolves into a complete silence, magnetic, oppressive, dominant, controlling in its enormity, only the sound of my speakers and the wind outside my door whispering to me as my belly churns into the pregnant pause. This moment is pure expectation. It is the sound of expectation.  A tingling moment of w(eigh)(ai)t.  We teeter on this precipice for a full 3.5 minutes before we are lured back into the relief of met expectations and the pleasure of crafted control.

I don’t have any snippets of this music to offer you, however here is a link that connects you not only to how to purchase the CD but also to samples of the brilliant music here. I highly recommend grabbing a copy.  There are free downloads of performances of Bear Ground on Patrick Farmers website Ideas Attached to Objects also. Enjoy!

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