“There’s a field recording forum website and people were talking about a whole set of ethics about how much a field recordist intrudes upon the recording itself, how they do or don’t make their presence felt, how your frame the recording or how you place the microphones. It was quite a heated debate.”
Richard Skelton, The Wire 359
Well, I’m pretty sure these field recording purists would be turning in their all-weather clothing, were they to take a listen to this six-track album by vocalist and sound artist Viv Corringham.
The album is a series of recordings of Corringham’s walks around London, overlaid with a variety of idiosyncratic vocalisations. She coos, sputters and howls – but also lets fly with some rather beautiful wordless singing, at times sounding like a flock of ghostly doves, at others like a softened Theremin.
The album was released back in October on Richard Sanderson’s prolific and fascinating Linear Obsessional label. It’s available from the label’s bandcamp site, digitally or as a limited, numbered edition of 22 CDRs. Physical copies come with some free goodies to enhance your listening experience.
Even by Linear Obsessional’s high standards this album is a gem. Corringham is an experienced and skilful improviser, capable of marshalling all sorts of sounds and vocalisations, from the melodious to the abrasive. But it’s the juxtaposition of the field recordings and Corringham’s improvisations that really differentiates it.
In ‘Construction Site – Moorgate’, she’s in full-on guttural form, stuttering and growling one second, then racing up to a higher register, with a sound like an old-fashioned kettle when it’s on the boil. The vocals bring out the rhythms of the banging and clanking of the construction works, resulting in a something remarkably like an early Throbbing Gristle recording. In other places – ‘Tate Modern’, ‘Borough Market’ – they add bubbling, warm textures to pieces that might have seemed too austere without them.
The recordings are never deployed as mere background colour. For one thing, they’re very clearly recorded, enabling us to get lost in the warp and weft of a thousand everyday conversations or, in the case of ‘River Thames – East from Queenhythe’ to get lost in the ambient drift.
But the real success of these pieces comes from the fact that Corringham’s vocalisations, perfectly judged that they are, never dominate. Instead they frame what she sees and hears in her walks, managing to be both part of each scene and apart from it. She’s like a quizzical alien, observing us humans from afar and reporting back to her mothership in a strange, unknowable language.
Get Gum + Butts here: http://linearobsessional.bandcamp.com/album/gum-butts
More about Viv Corringham: http://vivcorringham.org/
Linear Obsessional: http://www.linearobsessional.org/index.html