Nite Lite – Megrez
Posted In: Desire Path Recordings, Nathan Thomas, Nite Lite, Nite Lite - Megrez, Philip and Myste French
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Phonography, or field recording, could perhaps be imagined as a sort of spectrum. At one extreme are the documentarists, who strive to capture, with the utmost fidelity, the sounds of things as they are ‘in real life’; at the opposite end sit those who use recorded sounds simply as materials for expanding their sonic palette, with no concern for fidelity or recognisability. Between these two poles, however, stretches a wide and ambiguous middle ground, and much of the recent music that I find interesting or engaging happens here. “Megrez”, the new release on Desire Path Recordings from Portland-based duo Philip and Myste French, falls into this uncertain in-between region, though it disappears into the foliage well before we get to see where exactly it lands.
The press release describes the record as “sounds assembled to resemble nothing like the world that comes from where they came from”. This may be true, but there’s no doubt that resemblance is one area of experience “Megrez” plays with a lot. There are sounds on the album with a clear and unambiguous indexical link to sounds heard ‘in the field’ — the thunderstorm in the track “Equinox Reflections”, for example, or some of the bird calls. However, most of the sounds are ambiguous, to the point where you are not sure whether what you are hearing is something natural, something artificial, something natural made to sound artificial, something natural made to sound like some other natural thing, or so on. And then there are elements that are unambiguously musical, tonal and melodic sounds that try to impose a sense of order on this cacophony of resemblance, that try to map it, to mark a path through the forest. But the path keeps getting grown over with roots and ferns and branches and mosses and other things you can’t even name. Trails and things that look like trails. You would like a resemblance to clearly identify that which it resembles, but not so clearly that you can’t tell it’s ‘only’ a resemblance. In this forest you are deliciously out of luck, intoxicatingly lost.
This slippage between natural and artificial, between the artificially natural and the naturally artificial, is gloriously disorientating. But the most uncanny surprise occurs right at the end of the album: I don’t want to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that it seems, although it’s not entirely clear, that you, the listener, are being addressed directly. A most unseemly gesture, in the sense that a lot of documentary field recordings seem to downplay the existence of you, the listener. As if the listening function had been transferred to a mechanical and digital apparatus (microphone, recorder) that doesn’t think or feel. As if your brain upon receiving auditory data wouldn’t automatically start trying to figure out exactly where it came from, which always turns out to be from somewhere other than the direction in which the phonographer pointed his or her microphone. Nite Lite seize upon this locative brain, blindfold it, spin it round a dozen times, and leave it to wander through the forest alone — a compulsive and sense altering game of blind man’s buff.
“Megrez” is released in vinyl and digital editions on Desire Path Recordings, whose previous releases include works by Charlemagne Palestine and Janek Schaefer, Kyle Bobby Dunn and Solo Andata. The label seems to be developing a strong identity for itself that references recent trends in ambience, drone, and field recording, yet sounds like nothing else — more please!
- Nathan Thomas for Fluid Radio