Tiny Portraits

Being passionate about geography I have a natural propensity for field recording based works that have a clear sense of place. The Tiny Portraits series from Kate Carr’s Flaming Pines, fits the bill perfectly in this respect. The first batch of the series took in destinations as far removed from each other as Teheran with Siavash Amini, Athens, Zenjungle, Hanoi, Sound Awakener, and Tokyo, Yuco. Second time round, the area covered is restricted to Easter Europe, but spans countries as diverse as Latvia and Hungary, as well as Russia and the Ukraine.

First up is Sound Meccano (field recordings, electronics, sound processing, and objects) with habitual collaborator Jura Laiva (guitar, piano, toy clarinet), joined for the occasion by Mirva Tarvainen on double bass. Their chosen location is Andrejsala (Andrew Island), an industrial harbour area in Riga. The artists mix the sound of a cargo rail track with those of port cranes, seagulls and water. The emotional heart is provided by two simple refrains on double bass that eventually give way to a delicate interplay between piano and guitar. As proved on last year’s live set at Radio Naba for the ToBeContinued 24 hour live project organised by Stazione di popolo to raise awareness against TB, Sound Meccano and Jura Laiva are highly skilled at weaving a fragile tapestry of evocative whispered sounds focused predominantly on texture. In this case, the accent is more on the emotional side. Checking the location’s website, it is apparent the whole area is currently undergoing major regeneration with artists’ happenings occasionally taking place. It is difficult to get a sense of whether this will be a case of outright gentrification, or if some form of mixed-use destination, both industrial and residential, will be secured. In the meantime, Sound Meccano and Jura Laiva, provide us with an affectionate portrait of a resonant corner of Riga.

Foresteppe provides the shortest piece on this batch from his hometown of Berdsk in the Novosibirks region of Russia. Tooman bears the characteristic hallmarks of his output, with the quivering tape loops, balanced against tentative melodies. The title does not refer to an actual location or microdistrict within Berdsk, but to fog and the atmosphere is certainly hazy. This is a fleeting snapshot rather than an actual portrait, well calibrated and perfectly formed, with piano droplets resting on an unsettling blanket of chanting that seems to spring from nowhere. It is over too soon leaving a strange sense of longing for a place one has never really known.

Hailing from Ukraine are Gamardah Fungus, the duo of Igor Yalivec & Sergey Yagoda from Dnipropetrovsk, the Ukraine’s third largest city on the Dnieper river. Gamardah Fungus specialize in dark ambient, as demonstrated on last year’s excellent Hidden By The Leaves, an esoteric album inspired by Thomas More, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Friedrich Nietzsche and Daoist meditation in equal measure. For their Tiny Portrait contribution they hike up the Mysterious Carpathians, in order to search for some pastoral remoteness in the hope of finding some respite from the hustle and bustle while taking in the mountain-view from Slavske. Gamardah Fungus characteristic blend of guitar and electronics acquires an even accentuated nostalgic ring to it when mixed with birdsong and other organic sounds.

The last sonic postcard is from Péter Terner, a name new to me. This is the track where the field recordings have most relevance and are placed centre stage. If I am not mistaken, it pinpoints to a tram terminal on Marton Aron square, Budapest. Endless 59 carries the squeaks and screeches of the tram, virtually isolated from their surrounding ambience, with only muffled echoes of other urban traffic, and scant discernible human presence, only really detectable through the sound of a scooter speeding off and laughter from a passing group of people. This is a macro rendering of a place with a sibilant tone on a loop.

As with the previous batch or Tiny Portraits, a personal prism is placed in front of a chosen location to give a subjective reading of sometimes overlooked locations, while a dedicated website helps trace unexpected connections. Well worth exploring.

Tiny Portraits by Sound Meccano + Jura Laiva, Foresteppe, Péter Terner, and Gamardah Fungus is out on Flaming Pines on March 9th 2016.


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