Object Studies – Metal

Stuart Bowditch, under his Hybernation guise, has been sampling and modifying often ignored noises to create his own unique sound since 1999. Alongside his work on several site-specific installations Bowditch has released several albums, each heavily featuring sampled objects that form the (primarily percussive) basis for tracks. Having become increasingly fascinated by this way of working, Bowditch released E2 & E8 (Cotton Goods, 2010) and 30 (FBox, 2012), both of which saw limitations of place or number of objects used as sound sources. Metal Studies takes this one step further by using only one object per track, as illustrated in the sleevenotes which contain nicely detailed descriptions of the samples and objects used.

We open with the jittery ‘Bridge 20 (Lee Navigation)’, where tonal shards of metal flitter across the soundscape and intermittent clunks punctuate the passing of time. This is followed by ‘Intaglio Press (with Lee Sullivan)’ which consists of sounds produced from the self-same printing press used to produce the superb album sleeve. Dissonant drones and high pitched squeals provide shifting textures before breaking down, leaving a fragmented melody amongst the now sparse backdrop.

‘Lucia’s Earring (Lucia Chung)’ uses, you guessed it, an earring, to produce a wonderfully slowly repeating bass line which is interspersed with fragments of sound. Here, the modified recording produces small fragments of melody that at times are played alone, other times are layered to weave in and out of each other. ‘Ring Bolt (Languard Fort)’ immediately conjures up the image of the coastal fort with a chilling wind cutting through the air, combined with a periodic sonar-like sound giving the impression of being simultaneously lost and on course.

‘Cymbals (with year 5)’ enlists the help of year 5 pupils at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Leigh-on-Sea, as part of a creative arts workshop Bowditch ran there in 2010. The resonance of the cymbals provides an underlying tone that gradually shifts, never quite settling in any one place. Above this there are percussive attacks and skittering textures. This is followed by the sparse minimalism of ‘Harmonic (Ed Rome)’ where a jittery beat is accompanied by a sinister melodic line. The gentle tones of ‘Wind over Shoebury Railing’ ebb and flow to bring the album to a close, its slowed breathing providing a lullaby-like moment.

Despite the limitations of sound sources that Bowditch has placed upon himself this is a widely varied album with each track offering a fascinating glimpse into the miniscule world of each object. Overall this is an incredibly musical album, never once getting bogged down in the mechanics of field recording but rather producing melody and artificial rhythms from the samples. It is an added bonus to read where the tracks have originated from – be it as part of a school workshop, or a chance recording caught on a day out. I hear tell that this is the first in a series of ‘object studies’, can’t wait to hear what’s next. Highly recommended. – Albert Sugden


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