Three inclements (the ocean does not mean to be listened to)
Radio Cegeste is the pseudonym of New Zealand sound and radio artist Sally Ann McIntyre. Her new release on the Consumer Waste label was composed from recordings made on the island of Kapiti, about three miles off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Across the three tracks, McIntyre’s interest in sound and radio as a means of holding loose strands of historical, social and environmental narratives together in the hand is worked out in a variety of ways, with most of the sounds coming from shortwave and FM radio transmissions and field recordings.
An island residency presents the artist with an opportunity to absorb wildness and remoteness and shape it into an intelligible form, to translate otherness into a language that can be shared with those back on the mainland — in short, to colonise. McIntyre’s interests lie elsewhere. Island sounds saturate these three pieces, but they are always intertwined with other elements that counteract the immediacy of the field recordings with a temporal and spatial diffusion. Radio emanates from a point, but extends in all directions. The sounds of Kapiti are broadcast across a transmission gap — historical, geographic, perceptual, semiotic — that turns and transforms them.
First track “a lagoon considered against its archival image” is full of hiss and static, with few recognisable environmental or musical sounds, yet its deliberate stop-starting and movement around the stereo field has a strong sense of performance about it — this is the track in which McIntyre’s own presence feels most clearly discernible. This presence, and presentness, begins to wane on second track “study for lighthouse”, despite the sounds of human voices and snatches of music; only a pattern of five clicks suggests deliberate structure. A violin sounds on final track “1897, detail (song for Richard Henry)”, yet it is almost as if the bow is being blown across the strings by the wind, tone and melody arising completely by accident; music in the absence of humans, broadcast from another time perhaps. Radio interference becomes musical, and musical instruments become nature.
On her website the artist writes astutely about her experiences on Kapiti and her engagement with its various histories. While the specific content she refers to is not immediately discernible in the music of “three inclements”, there is nevertheless a sense in which the island remains remote, in both time and space, even as its sounds rise and fall in our ears. An island is an elsewhere, like the past, like nature; McIntyre wards off hungry mainland ears with gaps and indiscernibilities, not weaving them into nets but tuning them, turning them in her hand.