The concept behind this compilation is a ‘site-specific’ notion, recording found sounds in an ‘acoustic survey’ of the area of London that’s been rebranded as Culture Mile thanks to featuring the sites of the Museum Of London, the Barbican, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the London Symphony Orchestra and so on. Ten artists have taken these sounds and the accompanying inspiration and offered up pieces on the theme. These are predominantly downtempo electronica, dripping with arty cool.
As I write this, the Barbican is currently hosting an exhibition of Tangerine Dream photos and artefacts, so it seems appropriate that opening track “Running Out Of Limbs” is slightly T.D-esque, with steady changing arpeggios and a mellow, in-it-for-the-long-run vibe. This tone is reprised in Guidhall EMS’s “Eternal Descent” later on, in a good way.
“Running Out Of Limbs” doesn’t feature much by way of found sound however, although this begins to appear starting from the second track on. Some are as background textures only, such as on “A Synonym For Light” by Tania Nwachukwu and Bump Kin which foregrounds a full-length poem that dominates the consciousness, or on the theatrical mini-epic vocal playfulness of Alex Ho’s “Upon Brick”. Other pieces, like Mandhira da Saram’s scratchy and expressive “Anchor”, take the acoustic and incidental sounds and concentrate their focus on them.
The sonic environment elements do take something of a back seat sometimes, making this compilation feel less conceptually-driven and more like an old-fashioned compilation of ten random local artists. There’s no harm in that necessarily, as tracks like Fari B’s quality post-trip-hop calm “The Visitor Book” or Craig Richards’ soft electronica patterns in “Deep Slow” that make you want to Google more of their work (the hallmark of a good compilation).
An unexpected highlight is Kassia Flux’s “Rahere”, a really unusual piece that takes a beautiful and fairly purist, cathedral-toned choral work and treats it with reverence yet also chops it and twists it around the edges, melting it into a new frame.
So while people seeking out ambiences and found sounds may feel a tiny bit duped by the general pitch of this package, the musical quality and breadth of ideas that’s been offered up here more than makes up for it.