In The Shadow Of The Silent Mountain | Angus Carlyle

 

In The Shadow Of The Silent Mountain | Angus Carlyle
Gruen 162 | Gruen Digital (Free Download) & 2 Booklets > [order]
Reviews

 

Two A5-format stitched booklets (32 pages and 66 pages) bound in hand-painted vinyl wallet, 50 100-word texts and 33 split-page photographs.

 


 

The sounds that comprise this album were recorded in the Picentini mountain range in Southern Italy from 2012 to 2015, mostly during the early spring of each of those years. The compositions from these fieldtrips work in parallel to fifty 100-word texts and a number of photographs by Angus Carlyle’s collaborator Chiara Caterina. The compositions, texts and photographs are revealed on the dedicated micro-site and the texts and photographs appear in the limited edition publication. The publication involves two singer-stitched booklets bound into a clear cover that has been lithographed with the project logo, an abstraction of the red painted stripes that mark the mountain sentieri or paths.

 

The shadows from the silent mountains cast across our walks beneath blue skies and sullen cloud, above squeaking snow, cloying mud, cobbles and diamond tiles, beech leaves and crocuses, paths, icicles and stalactites, chimney smoke, spray from winter streams and waves against the sea wall; over chestnut and dairy farmers, joggers, cobblers and their grand children, priests, geologists and motor bikers, playground mimics, salamanders, unseen birds of prey, cows, dogs and goats. I heard the shadows, I saw them, but couldn’t write them, couldn’t record them: that was their silence.

 


 

Tracks:

 

Acqua Bianca (extract) (10.42)
The winter still has a hold on the higher forests: sending mist to roll between trunks and sometimes to cast shadows of shadows, laminating the edges of the streams with sheets of ice, laying down a carpet of snow for our boots to creak over, for the sun to sparkle when the clouds part, for our other animals to mark their nocturnal activities on. The beech leaves that are submerged behind the fallen-branch-dams have swollen slightly and darkened to brown; chilled fingertips push the hydrophones to probe flows and slackenings but am I doing anything other than recording myself recording?

 

Bells of Church / Bells of Country (extract) (10.09)
MP3
We drove the car as far as the steepness, ruttedness and narrowness of the track permitted, opening the doors to dark ruffled underbellies of herringboned banks of cloud that then rose in white elevations towards a milky-blue sky above. Near the watershed, tributary paths lead up the valley flanks to fenced-in rows of vines, concrete blockhouses without immediate purpose or troughs supplying irregular expanses of empty dirt. Led by less and less faint ringing, we came to the untended herd jammed into a nettle-filled gully, tearing grass, chewing grass, a mother’s tongue rasping its calf’s hide, shifting nervously, bells swinging.

 

Il Vertice (extract) (04.08)

MP3

I slid across the leather seats as the car swung around the obstacles on the track; pulled forwards and pushed back as the steep slopes were tackled. The headlights carved tunnels of green from the forest, the keys rattled against themselves and the steering column, the windscreen wipers rubbed the glass in wide sweeps. Leveling out at the plateau on the summit, a sudden gift, offered then instantly withdrawn: a gaunt wolf’s yellow eyes in our beams. Hard cold gusts of rain-filled wind; the cloud ceiling below us flashed by lightning strikes as inverted trees; our torches on the shrine.

 

Fifty Breaths In the Valley (extract) (05.56)

The trawl of recordings netted in the environs of San Cipriano Picentino: files with names such as Rain_on_Accelica_2.wav or cutting_vine.aif have been subject to an earlier audition; those marked B20h30m57s28feb2013.wav or STE-021.wav have lain unopened since originally recorded onto Compact Flash or SD card. Whether punctiliously titled or left to the blank registration of the recording device’s operating system, all files are stored away in folders, themselves named more or less coarsely. Gutting recordings to leave behind discernible traces of breath – closer, further, features or accidents – that are sequenced and then processed with a crude echo that no one enjoys.

 

Five Mountain Walks (extract) (06.00)
Sentieri 103 was marked by stripes of red and white, painted on boulders and on tree trunks. Little rock cairns occasionally appeared among the beech leaves. The sky opened up above the plateau – the highest point we had previously reached – and the light seemed telescopic, details shining and edges sharp. The treeline now below us, we pushed through the deepening snow, breaking an untrodden trail. I felt sweat between my shoulder blades, fatigue building in my thighs and thirst in my throat. I crushed snow into the neck of a plastic water bottle. Somewhere ahead an unseen bird of prey.

 

Ferro Legno (extract) (09.02)

The metal is grinded, grated, sheared, scraped, stamped, sliced, scoured and burnished. The machines clunk, clatter and throb, they send sparks shooting, whir faster to a whine then slower to a standstill. Voices bubble to the surface whenever the din subsides; smoke is sucked into fans and strobed by light from the shutter door that has been raised on chains into a recess in the ceiling. Blueprints – straight from a heist movie – are pulled from tubes and smoothed flat enough for a pencil – once its function as a pointer has been exhausted – to roll to a stop when dropped.

 

Vignale (extract) (10.00)

MP3

Headlights swayed as the car rolled down the slope, manoeuvring between the potholes and boulders. I waved and began to climb through the rain. Reaching a squat plateau some 400 metres below the summit, I unshoulder my dripping backpack and crawl through the stunted trees towards the edge. The wind gusts and buffets, drags tears from the corners of my eyes, rattles my cagoule’s hood, groans branches and flickers sodden leaves, offering itself as sound but also dragging scraps from the village below the lip of the cliff: a squashed dog bark, a stretched snatch of birdsong, a distended bell.

 

Acqua Verde (extract) (10.24)

Insects sparked and buzzed from the path’s undergrowth; three crows spun and tumbled, reminders of how few chances there had been to record them. The boardwalk sagged in places, gaped where planks had rotted, was crushed by fallen trees to be clambered over or crawled under. The lake mirrored the mountains, shimmering them whenever its surface was brushed into wavelet moiré; the reeds next to the hide crackled with each rush. Peering frogs scattered wherever my hydrophone’s shadow cast over the pondweed; tinny effervescence from aquatic plants; stripes of sunshine that I had to be reminded of by Chiara’s photograph.

 


 

 


 

8 Tracks (55′21″)
Booklet (50 copies)
Microsite (montesilenzio.com)

 

In The Shadow Of The Silent Mountain, Angus Carlyle
Photographs: Chiara Caterina
Design: Paul Bailey with Eliott Grunewald
Development: Myles Palmer

 

Field Recording Series by Gruenrekorder
Gruenrekorder / Germany / 2016 / Gruen 162 / LC 09488

 


 

 


 

Reviews

 

Aurelio Cianciotta | Neural
While leafing through the essential but elegant booklet of In The Shadow Of The Silent Mountain and starting “Acqua Bianca”, the first of 8 files/compositions present in this digital album by Angus Carlyle for Gruenrekorder, we soon get the feeling of plunging into a point-like sound landscape. This landscape is characterized by natural sounds, at first hardly recognizable, then similar to something dripping, fluid, winter-like: maybe ice sheets breaking and snow under the boots. The various creakings then leave space for stronger sounds. In “Bells of Church” we find some descriptive field recordings (the bells, the flock to pasture, some southern Italian dialects typical of a rural setting). In “Fifty Breaths in the Valley” we find more repetition of sound effects, basically some echoes which are repeated and more shaded and attached to some dialogue fragments, all objects of sound editing. It’s nothing really special or aesthetically beautiful, but the work provides different questions to the expert listener. What is the strategy of this sound artist? What exactly is he trying to tell us, to explore or let us think about this audio experience? Undoubtedly the mix between sounds, words and images is not secondary: this mix was innate of any magical expression, W.S.Burroughs said, and of any artistic expression too, obviously. This inter-disciplinary mix refers to a different approach, which is more contemporary and abstract, and to a clear editorial choice (the physical sounds are not reported in the final package). All of this is apparently mostly related to the relationship between the experimenter and the sounds surrounding him. In this case the artist is in a specific environment of audio captures: the Piacentin mountains, in the Campania Apeninnes. According to Carlyle, sound art does not need to make sounds and this is enough to think that writing, or photography, or a film, may be considered sound art too. The main thing is showing the special link which is the base of the way we and the surrounding world are connected: maybe this is a limited strategy, but this strategy has its own charm too.
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Duncan Simpson | Musique Machine
In keeping with Gruenrekorder’s pedigree in curating immersive multi-media experiences centred on field recordings, Angus Carlyle’s In the Shadow of the Mountain does not disappoint. The work consists of fifty 100 word texts and 33 split page photographs (presented in two accompanying booklets) and a composed series of field recordings captured over a three year period in the Picentini mountain area of Southern Italy.

 

Immediately on perusing the booklets one senses aspects of the mystical and spiritual in Carlyle’s project. A quote from René Daumal’s Mount Analogue on the necessary invisibility of the mountain summit draws our attention to Carlyle’s ’silent‘ mountain; a silence which for the sound recordist is comparable to Daumal’s invisibility. What we have then is perhaps a series of initiations taking place at different levels within the mountain region, attempting to capture something of the natural pastoral environment, in full knowledge that the ultimate experience of the mountain is occluded. The summit will remain invisible, the shadows cast by the mountain remain silent.

 

The eight compositions that make up the digital part range widely from more or less untreated field recordings to more surreal experiments with close-up recordings of water, static interference and some light use of digital effects. Overall the presence of the studio is lightly felt, heightening the real/surreal quality of the work. Characteristic of this approach is the first piece Acqua Bianca, which as the title suggests features recordings of water; beginning with what could be droplets falling directly onto the microphone before sliding into more recognisable environments involving waterfalls and streams. The composition title derives from a local name for the stream that runs through the valley in which the recordings were made. The second piece Bells of Church, like the first around the ten minute mark is a highlight for me. Initially it does exactly what the title suggests, offering up a range of different recordings of church bells, perhaps from some of the wonderfully evocative little towers, rising from the red tiled roofs of mountain villages pictured in the photo booklet. Soon however there’s a twist with the church bells overtaken by the massed tinkling of cow bells swinging from the necks of a herd encountered in a mountain gully. You never hear the animals themselves and it’s only the sudden rasping bark of a dog that breaks the vaguely meditative chiming of the bells.

 

The more experimentally inclined side to the project comes out on subsequent tracks, each drawing strange and often dissonant sounds from the mountain environment through creative use of the recording equipment and studio effects. Il Virtice(The Summit) sounds as if Carlyle is dragging the microphone along the ground behind him as ascends the mountain. Waves of static, thumps, clicks and wind distortion form a hail of sounds that are usually avoided by field recording artists. Here they serve to highlight the at times rough terrain and physical exertion involved in negotiating the mountain paths. Fifty Breaths in the Valley takes the opposite approach to the previous track’s earthy materialism by sequencing numerous human voices (the fifty breaths one assumes) and with subtle reverb and echo effects builds up a picture of the communal life of the people living around the Picentini area. Five Mountain Walks returns to the physical space of the mountain and Carlyle’s struggles with his knees (mentioned often in the accompanying texts). We hear him slip on loose rock, a short cry of concern before finding his footing again. Deep gulps of liquid, and crunching on rough paths. The wind rises up (or is it that unseen source of water encountered in a dark cave mentioned in the text) in a processed, throbbing squall, driving back the listener and the recordist himself by the sounds of it.

 

The final few compositions return to the more straightforward documentary style. Ferro Legno(Iron Wood) is the least pastoral of the records offerings. Seemingly an amalgam of wood chipping yard and metal workshop the clanks and grinding sounds from the machinery are punctuated by occasional calls from the workers; a reminder that even in this remote, bucolic place, the invading forces of industry are never far away. Vignale collapses a series of meteorological events into ten minutes of rain, swirling winds, angry clouds building on the horizon. Finally Acqua Verde leaves us where we began, with the water. Here perhaps the subjects are the lakes pictured in the photo booklet. Nestled motionlessly in a valley, surrounded by reeds and further back the steep slopes of the Picentini mountain range. Glooping sounds of water – as if using a hydrophone to record beneath the surface – are set against relaxing passages next to the lakeside; Carlyle gently swishing his fingers through the clear waters after another long hike along the trails.

 

Like virtually everything put out by this record label In the Shadow of the Silent Mountain is a work of uncanny depth which goes far beyond the experience of listening to the recordings alone. The pages of text, each dated to a particular time during the three year recording process are part documentary record, part psychogeographical literary experiment and part surrealist ramble in search of the marvellous. Set alongside the photographs, which like the text and audio range from landscape view to extreme close-up of seemingly incidental artefacts, the project as a whole is a delight, rewarding repeated plays while you read the text and try and marry up sound, word and image; ultimately to no avail. The mountain remains ineffable. As Carlyle writes at the end of his notes: „I heard the shadows, saw them, but couldn’t write them, couldn’t record them: that was their silence“.

 

A website featuring the recorded material, text and photographs for the project can be found at http://www.montesilenzio.com
Angus Carlyle teaches at the University of the Arts London where he is the Co-Director of CRiSAP (Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice).
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Beach Sloth
Offering a picture of true serenity, Angus Carlyle’s “In The Shadow of the Silent Mountain” is an immersive experience. Best listened to in a quiet environment this is an album of quiet contemplation. Effortlessly blending together the real and the manipulated, this album takes almost a surreal bent to field recordings. For this intersection of the digital and the real is quite profound, at times recalling a daydream of the day to day reality that encompasses all. A journey begins to take hold over the course of the album, an unspoken narrative that moves the album forward.

 

The album begins on a serene hushed note of reverence with “Acqua Bianca”. On this piece Angus Carlyle begins with whispered sounds. Eventually these tiny elements come together to expand into a lovely sound of moving water. Peaceful in nature is the “Bells of Church” whose snapshot of a moment feels quite tender. Voyeuristic in nature is the found snippets of conversation that adorn “Fifty Breaths in the Valley”. With a slight usage of delay the way the song evolves feels quite tactile. Industrial sounds emerges from the many whirs and buzzes of “Ferro Legno”. Ending the album off on a high note is the lush “Acqua Verde”. Easily the highlight of the album, the way that Angus Carlyle lets the piece unfold is quite masterful.

 

Angus Carlyle’s “In The Shadow of the Silent Mountain” offers a fine aural experience recalling some of Luc Ferrari’s best, most subtle work.
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Frans de Waard | VITAL WEEKLY
Well, technically this is listed as a book, well actually two books, but there is also music to hear, which you have to download from the label’s website. All of this I would think is some kind of poetry cobbled together through field recordings, words and photography. One book has only words and the other has pictures, and I assume all of this upon a mountain somewhere in Italy. Or not Italy, maybe it’s the name of the website that distracts me? Confusing indeed, I must say. I will repeat what I say above, my mantra, „as much as I would love to do so, reviewing anything else than music is really a hard task. That ‚else‘ includes video art, literature, poetry, sculptures or art-objects“, and that pretty much sums up what I think of the two booklets, other than the pictures look great, and made me want to go on a mountain trip again, which is in the Netherlands is not an easy option. The words/poetry/literature come in the form of a diary and is ‚interesting to read‘.
The music is all about field recordings, and I assume (once again), from taking a trip up the mountain, capturing the surrounding; church bells, a small creek, cow bells, but as we go higher and higher we hear only ourselves walking up the mountain, microphone in backpack, arriving at a ski-station in ‚Ferro Legno‘ and more water streams. It is not entirely clear if Carlyle uses any editing of processing. In ‚Fifty Breaths In The Valley‘ he surely must have, I was thinking, used a bit of delay and also in some of the other pieces it seems some editing is used. Probably very much like the rest of the package, this is all a bit mysterious and deliberately vague, but I guess that’s what makes this quite captivating. You can read, watch and hear while pondering over the question: ‚what is this all about?‘
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textura
Gruenrekorder consistently manages to extend the conceptual and presentational range of its products, the latest example being this field recordings-based release by Angus Carlyle. The project encompasses: two stitched booklets bound into a clear cover (50 copies in total), the first featuring text in the form of site-based diary records and the second colour photographs (by Chiara Caterina); sixty-six minutes of audio sound files, available as a free download from the label’s site; and a stand-alone micro-site (montesilenzio.com), which re-presents the photography (in achromatic form) and text in a conjoined display. Carlyle is hardly new to Gruenrekorder, the sound artist, researcher, and teacher at the University of the Arts in London having previously appeared on projects such as Some Memories of Bamboo (2009) and, with Rupert Cox, Air Pressure (2012). With all of the text, image, and sound components orienting themselves around recordings made in the Picentini mountain range in Southern Italy between 2012 and 2015, the project offers a multi-sensory experience to the visitor.

 

“Acqua Bianca” begins the audio portion with what could pass for a skeletal brand of minimal techno in a different context. In this one, however, the rhythmic noises quickly give way to boots trudging through snow, hydrophones capturing the onrushing flow of ice-covered streams, and various rustlings of indeterminate character. Much as “Acqua Bianca” initially suggests some tangential techno connection, “Il Vertice” does something similar though this time to electronic noise, oddly enough. Smeared swaths of crackle dominate its opening section, though a human presence does enter into the presentation when voices surface midway through the four-minute setting. During “Bells of Church / Bells of Country,” a mutating sound collage of whooshing car engines, chirping birds, cowbells, barking dogs, and, of course, church bells materializes; the closing “Acqua Verde,” on the other hand, presents a micro-sound mix packed with buzzing insects, burbling water, and rainstorm noise. While many such pieces position us outdoors, “Ferro Legno” places us at a factory-like site where machines grind, slice, shear, scrape, and stamp metal.

 

Much like the text records and photographs, each of the eight sound files documents a distinct aspect of the experience; even though they’re all obviously related, each piece acts as a stand-alone. They’re not wholly undoctored recordings either; beyond arranging the base materials into sound portraits, Carlyle in moments makes his manipulating presence felt, such as when echo treatments are affixed to the industrial and natural elements within “Fifty Breaths In the Valley.” Such interventions remind us that however pure the originating recordings might be, an artistic intelligence is nonetheless involved in determining the form the work assumes in its final presentation. True to the project’s title, it’s the mountain that looms largest, whether that involves shadowing Carlyle as he undertakes his explorations of the Southern Italy locale or appearing in outdoor photographs that show towns, forests, rivers, and people dwarfed in size by its immensity.
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