Artist: Paul Daniel Knowles
Label: Focused Silence
Keywords: Electronic, Experimental, Field Recording, Ambient
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
It’s taken me several months to finally get around to reviewing this album, from the really cool Focused Silence label! Why has it taken me so long, you might ask? Well, I hate to disappoint, but it is mostly due to poor time management on my behalf. Sorry about that.
The important thing, I hope, is that here we are now, together, naked, yearning, burning with a desire to review this album together. I even got us a copy of the Kama Reviewtra.
The first position is ‘Shinjuku Group’, which sounds kind of hot. It starts off sounding like an immediate blast of warm air, a very low rhythm that soon seems to fade off beneath the atmosphere of a public space filled with voices, the distant sound of children playing, the clinking of glasses and spoons, traffic on a street. It’s a complex audio space. Someone coughs. There is faint muzak, like a cafe in an airport… just as I’m having that thought, some kind of pop music blares in and fades, soon replaced with a mechanical groove like passerby with headphones, but close. There are infrequent snaps, like fingers against a recorder. As Andy Backhouse put it, in the description of the album, it “starts with a walk through a busy Tokyo street (complete with a Girl Band playing on a massive sound system) and has snippets of everyday Japanese life that to me – as someone who has yet to visit Japan – I could not comprehend. With this album I was both lost & enamored. Tokyo life seems like an assault on the senses judging by these recordings.” The pop music creeps into the mix, and it’s a lot of fun to hear in this, which otherwise might feel like… well, a field recording, I guess. The recorder seems to move closer and closer, and the music grows loud in the mix. People laugh, clap… and the intricate electronic music gets intense, it’s hard to imagine how it would feel to suddenly be on this street hearing and seeing this! But, in a limited way, it really feels like you’re there, given the fidelity of the recording. The performers sound like they’re having a blast, there’s a lot of energy, and then the recording suddenly ends.
If you’re into this sort of thing, ‘Terebi 1’ is next. A woman is speaking… it sounds like it could be a phone conversation or recorded message. It is very short.
Adjusting into the third track, titled ‘Shibuya Scramble’, which, again, sounds like a capture of a live music performance. It is muddled into an abstract soundfield, with crowd cheering, an infant crying for a moment, loud sound effects, dance music… could be a television switching repeatedly, or a multitudinous feed of spectacle. I find the loudness of these spheres of existence exhilarating and attractive, much like you, reader. 😉
Before we cramp, let’s switch around into ‘Kafe’, a strange turn back a century, nearly. Shuffling plates and some sort of 1940s jingle pop are woven into a comparatively lower-volume soundscape. Sort of. There is a wash of sound, still… voices, on occasion. It fades for a moment, returns, to a lazy, quiet atmosphere with soft music.
I know you’ll like it when I put on ‘Terebi 2’… it’s another recorded voice, speaking. Similarly short length, as well.
Oh, oh, ‘Pabu’! A soundscape of voices! This is the lengthiest piece, at just over 12 minutes! People seem to be having very warm, lively conversation. There’s a rhythm somewhere at the back. The chatting draws you in, confused but hypnotized, until you forget where you’re at and snap back into the reality of your other senses. Everyone suddenly chants at once toward the end, that was trippy!
‘(unknown)’ is very quiet… a lone street… it doesn’t last long…
… we’re getting closer to the finish with ‘Amyuuzumento Shisetsu’, which feels almost like a carnival of the senses by this point. Voices glow throughout, and after a short while I hear some more electronic powerpop idol music within the street ambiance. I can almost taste what a joy it can be to make field recordings. They are something I’ve often felt I would be into doing some time, but never really have to such an extent as to make an album of them. I think they are a curious art. A carousel seems to have started up, now, the music is lovely, delicate.
We reach a climax with ‘Ueno Kooen’, which feels like a fierce rainstorm. It’s hard to make anything out beyond the pattern of droplets, but I enjoy hearing how it dies down and rises again. Sometimes, it feels organic, like the natural cycle of storms like these, while at others it feels as if the recorder is moving, hearing the storm at odd angles, moving under new canopies. The rain doubles down again… I begin to wonder if with splicing there weren’t an actual doubling of rain taking place, here. Fascinating and alluring.
You can stream, buy, or gaze longingly at the album we just reviewed at the link, which I hope you’ll do, because it’s really nice! Don’t forget to call sometime.