‘Lay By Lullaby’ came to Fluid accompanied by high words of praise from 12k label head Taylor Deupree, and it’s not hard to see why; Janek Schaefer’s twenty years experience in sound design is evident in every aspect of its seventy-three minutes. Although the project is quite sedate (requiring headphones at some points for the material to even be appreciably audible), the balance is exceptional and is virtually a textbook example on how to present audio installations in an album context.
The twelve tracks are a companion piece, or album accompaniment, to Schaefer’s solo 2013 London show “Collecting Connections” at the Agency Gallery, and are based around location recordings made late at night above the M3. Conceptually, the album appears to revolve around car culture, specifically referencing J.G. Ballard’s work on the subject in the early 1970’s. The car element is obvious: traffic noise lurches out at regular intervals. This reviewer made the mistake of trying to listen to it on headphones as a pedestrian in a city, and had several low-level cardiac events doing so; attempting to cross roads visually clear of any traffic only to suddenly hear incredibly realistic car noise directly in his ear…
The location recordings are well spaced over the twelve tracks, presented alongside well-processed analogue texture with a number of organesque sonorities that seem to go for miles. The album is a success in a number of regards, not least in that it is able to elicit a strong response from the listener, being the extreme dislocation that most inhabitants of the planet feel when forced to confront sprawling highways and rampant urbanization. These lullabies appear to be something of a message to the listener to assess their place within that unpleasant structure. The vibe is almost apocalyptic.
This dynamic presents itself best in the repetitive noir of “Radio 106 FM”: the calm and methodical presentation of all assembled components and the long, faint, distant passages of automobile noise could be read as a deep contempt for rampant overdevelopment.
A rare gift: an album that forces re-evaluation of your place in the world.