Info Unfathomless U01 Tsukubai 
by Mathieu Ruhlmann
Unfathomless (U01)
"Tsukubai IV - Mathieu Ruhlmann"
"Tsukubai VI - Mathieu Ruhlmann"
"Funayurei [edit] - Mathieu Ruhlmann"

Mathieu Ruhlmann's URL


fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

Parallel to his ongoing Mystery Sea series, with its ‘night ocean drones’ and related metaphorical psychoactivity, Daniel Crokaert has inaugurated a new-ish sister label, Unfathomless. It seeks to mine potentially wider and deeper audio-documentary veins - be they natural, man-made, or fictive, as well as other related environmental experiences implicating memory and senses. It's thus a loosely themed series with a focus on phonographies potentially replete with the resonances of artists' intimate interactions with specific places. Issues are in cd format (cf. Mystery Sea’s cd-r), with a slimmer less fussy look and feel, eschewing jewel cases for clear polyplastic and opaque inner sleeves, and more resolved artwork. Sonically, there's no great differentiation here from Mystery Sea’s (sub-)aquatic dronescaping (previously in fn here), though the location recordings are given an emotional-sensory remit in Crokaert's keynote commentary: the Unfathomless mission is to capture the spirit of particular places, with artists encouraged to use found sounds from these locales to lend an organic aspect. This is the first of five releases so far on Unfathomless - the others being covered elsewhere in this issue (U02, U03, U04, U05).

The first episode in the Unfathomless series comes from a man who can do such assemblages in his sleep (and probably has!): Mathieu Ruhlmann has been audio-documenting anything that moves (or lies) for years, and the Vancouver-based sonographer doesn't have far to go for Tsukubai's recording - the Nitobe Memorial Garden at The University of British Columbia. Most of the album is based on hydrophone recordings, evident throughout as little is done to mask nature’s tones. The tracks unfold steadily, soft-focus drones slowly seeping through as the 8 seamlessly blended tracks evolve, each a variation on a theme, compare and contrast, for example, "Tsukubai IV" and "Tsukubai VI". First copies come with a bonus disc, Funayūrei, on which the elements underpinning the field work are more homogeneous, and post-processing seems to have been brought to bear more on process to contribute to a better tempered product. Eno-esque treatments serve to mollify the sounds, lending a nice inhale/exhale aspect to its cadence. Less for lovers of true grit perhaps, but a bonus of buried harmonic elements unearthed for those who like their field reality more diluted. If Tsukubai leans towards the field recording side of things, then "Funayūrei" tends more towards a lulling, dark ambient series of swells and hums, with hints of early-mid period Eno, or those Dark Satanic Mills drone crones like Mirror, Jonathan Coleclough and Ora. Overall "Funayūrei" has a greater euphony, seemingly from purposive intervention of a more musical sensibility between source and outcome.

Review by Alan Lockett


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