Mapping the distant quiet areas from a Godforsaken place in south of Slovakia, is the newly formed label Mappa, who picked as their first release 34°111’3″N 111°95’4″W by Jeph Jerman. This could be seen as a programmatic choice…
The veteran American sound artist has been releasing albums since the early 80s at a time when the only movement he was aware of was the ‘cassette culture’ explosion of the early 1980’s, which was helped along by magazines like Sound Choice and Op. As he explains in an informative interview from 2011 by Aram Yardumian on Times Quotidian, Jeph has gradually become less interested with concepts and ideas over time to concentrate on simple timbres.
“I’d say that idea-based material has some context outside of the sounds themselves, a perfectly mundane example would be “Peter and the Wolf”, or pick any song, past or present. The main thrust is to convey some mood or tell some story. By ‘sound-based’ I’m talking about material that is only a sound or collection of sounds to be paid strict attention to, sounds that have no narrative or emotional prod. A good example might be the long string drones of Tony Conrad.”
Altough Jerman is accustomed to remove the context, so that the sounds stand alone, he is still willing to trace the coordinates of his work, quite literally, in this case. 34°111’3″N 111°95’4″W is made of three field recordings taken at an abandoned windmill located in the Arizona desert about a mile north of the town where he lives over a period of a couple of years. Tellingly, the tracks don’t have titles but only durations.
Jerman has always been fascinated with detritus and has often created his works from found objects. “Much of it is quite beautiful, I think. There’s something about the way an abandoned house deteriorates—the shape changing, the wood weathering and disintegrating etc, or the way metal rusts and loses its structural integrity, that I find fascinating. The Japanese have a term for it, wabi sabi. For whatever reason, newer things just don’t sound as interesting much of the time.”
Corrugated sounds reverberate in hollow tanks while the clanging structure carries the echo of circular movements within. These are uncluttered takes that don’t try to be pristine. Airy and porous they welcome extraneous aural incidents. On a number of occasions, for instance, I thought I could hear the sound of aircraft, while on the second track, 8:20, distant voices faintly filter through the rattling of the battered metal. These are treated as natural occurrences, part of a specific moment, and don’t get airbrushed from the sonic picture.
As Jerman says,
These days I don’t try to evoke anything. I make sound that’ll hopefully be listened to.
34°111’3″N 111°95’4″W is an assured and well curated release by Mappa, an intriguing label to watch closely with six tapes already planned for its first year. It is available here in an edition of 70. The first 35 cassettes contain a small object found near the windmill and come in a hand-made package.