Placement : Our Man In High Places
Atmospheres inspired by the stories and diaries of Himalayan adventurers.
Available here on CD for the first time online, the group's debut album features ten pieces of locational ambient music that relate to Himalayan landscapes and situations. A hybrid of found sounds, improvised systems and hardware electronica, the release was professionally mastered from what were essentially 'live studio recordings' made directly to digital tape. It is only with the exceptions - such as 'Glacier Path' or 'See-Saw Ridge', that any significant multi-track mixing was employed.
The resulting evocations range from remote foothill gardens and wooded slopes, to the higher plains of Tibet, via teetering suspension bridges, bitter passes and cold airy peaks - this partly the result of notes coalesced from various Himalayan background sources that would go on to become written companion pieces to the tracks (included here below and within the CD booklet).
1. From The Water Garden
There are no plants in this garden. Nothing to divert the eye, or otherwise spoil the even calm. Just low flat flags of foot-worn stone and loosely tended curves of lazy gravel. Under the water things are different. Here light picks a new speed and all geometry is changed. The bather holds his breath to watch the rays flash about him. Daydreaming, he half imagines himself to be inside a giant iridescent jellyfish. Above the pool the hills stand quietly by, their reflections a mosaic on the skin of the water.
2. Steep Forest
All above the way ahead the busy leaves are cutting up the daylight. Slicing at it eagerly and sending it ti flicker down on the backs of beasts and men. Hooves and heels trap in roots and turn on stones, complaints are sucked into the soft dull forest and extinguished. From the rhododendron bushes birds sound the alarm. Shrill echoes spike the trees and quick wings speed through the smoke of invisible fires.
3. Glacier Path
Bright dunes of ice and flint reach up the sides of the pass like enormous sheets of stretched white linen. They steepen as they rise until, hanging from the rocks, they resemble frozen sails in the double pure sunlight. Above, the sheer walls levitate towards airless peaks, while all around huge eccentric boulders stick to the world at weird angles, mimicking monumental freeze dried limpets. The people below seem very small and move just a fraction at a time. Tied together against falling, they appear as tiny three-legged racers, slip streaming.
4. Wire Suspension Bridge
Each part of the noise is distinct. Every whirring line and popping cable has it's own particular place. A specific location in space between the drop and the remote sky. Taut voices born by the wind sing about the fragile span to ice, and rock, and visitor alike. A constant description of structure and distance called out in mid air. Twisted steel winds up under unseen loads and explodes into spitting rounds of ill-disciplined volley fire. The pitch rises with the wind's punch, vibrations coincide, they stretch-shriek-howl, sub-divide and re-align. A harmony lasts a split second and dies. Touching the bridge shocks the body. Sound burns through gloves and boots and lodges in the spine to buzz with avery swaying step.
5. See-Saw Ridge
The mountain has dissolved into steep and bitter shadows and the sky now envelops the horizon on every side. Up here only a narrow rail of rock remains to withstand the pull of gravity. Clouds boil over the leading edge of the ridge to seek out lower pressures, whilst an endless swarm of fine dust rolls in it's wake. Scattered here and there lie bits and pieces of the world below. A spoon bent double and left to it's fate, rubs shoulders with a highly polished stone. The latter recovered from a meltwater stream and brought here in defiance of erosion by an unseen hand.
6. Tibet's Mirror
This place is metal. A sheet of copper that has been beaten into a series of endless wrinkles. Everything is uniform and nothing moves. Even exhaled breath soon turns to wire-wool. Between every wrinkle lies a solid lake which reflects gold under the low sun. Each one only part filling it's crater like a half-finished cup of tea, or an ancient shell hole that still rests frozen to ground zero. Soon the twilight dies and the stars take their turn to shine upon this great mock-lunar mirror. Each lake resembling a bright suburb of a city, it's lights many times older than the earth.
7. Prayer Flags
Strung out like washing between a collection of makeshift poles, the hundreds of little flags twist and tug at their lines, their contortions filling the strong dry air with wave after wave of noisy and colourful repeats. Below them sit the people who are unmoving. Their backs are bent to the wind and their words are constantly carried away by the excitable flags. No amount of buffeting seems to bother them.
8. The Lakes 'Sun' And 'Moon'
Although this beach shelves gently away, these waters feel impossibly deep. They also seem to radiate their own turquoise light, as if illuminated from beneath by millions of waterproof gas lamps. The colour is a constant feature and many refuse to swim here for fear of turning blue. Way out beyond the bay the busy waves are only just breaking, but even so this is enough to create a weak yet constant lapping sound. Sometimes the hills contrive to capture these choppy conversations and then, after rearranging them with loop and echo, beam them back in a confusion of sunken voices.
9. A Passing Parade
Advancing across the high plateau with their feet obscured in the dust of their own progress, the column moves steadily at a shambolic slow march. A series of laments issuing from more than a dozen points along the line, although none of these seem to be co-operating with each other. Never the less the cacophony exudes a kind of joyful solemnity and all appear to be transported by their concentrated efforts. Every now and then a tripping change of step will go stuttering down the ranks, to be met with angry barks and kicked heels. Somehow the beat goes on.
10. Mother India
A stream jumps out of the forest. It plays on the smooth stones and sends great veils of mist to drift with the insects far into the afternoon. Soon rough cotton clothes pick up these cooling droplets, causing them to shine like silk in the muted amber light. Everything moves to the steady dripping beat of the water. The spoilt leaves overflow to soak the earth and the women's feet sink into the soft red mud that now oozes with countless miniature deltas.
11. All Man-Made Watery Terrain (Extra track - download only)
Spread like a fertile cloak, this landscape features a tracery of boundaries, each returning to enclose a uniquely tinted field of young green shoots. There are no trees or shrubs growing on the narrow irrigation ridges, just such grasses that can cling onto their slippery, breezy banks and join in soft brushed chatter with the stooped agricultural workers as they pass. This is a life of familiar rhythms from the water up, where slow wading swirls and sudden bright releases from creaking sluices, mix with the occasional hubbub of a motorcycle or the grinding deliberations of a cart travelling on the higher road.
Total running time; CD 53.50 / download 57.39
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We hope you enjoy it!