Being / The Humble Bee / Andrew Hargreaves – The Atlantic Cable

The Latest release from Wist records is a 3×3” mini-disc collection featuring a single composition per disc from Being, The Humble Bee, and Andrew Hargreaves. “The Atlantic Cable” is a sonic recounting of the first transmission that went along the transatlantic telegraph cable from Valentia Island, Ireland to the eastern coast of Newfoundland in 1858. What makes the moment monumental is that it marked the very first messages sent along the Atlantic Cable between Her Majesty Queen Victoria and then-US President James Buchanan. As a musical endeavor, the Atlantic Cable sets itself to an interesting task: create a soundtrack to a significant historical moment not often celebrated. To look for a parallel, it’s the equivalent of the way music is put to movies, TV shows, audiobooks, etc.

Being’s contribution is entitled “East to West”. The important piece to note in that title is that it reflects the directionality of the message. Specifically, it’s the narrative of the response from the President to the original message sent from Ireland. Musically, “East to West” swells into existence with an almost cautious entrance into the world. Then the heartbeat of the whole piece sets in motion: the original morse code messages relayed between President and Queen. In a music defined by electronic origins, those on-off tones almost don’t sound out of place – acting like a series of beeps that act as a rhythmic foundation.

Knowing that those original messages are indeed what one is hearing, it becomes more apparent why those first musical notes would be so subdued and cautiously optimistic: that’s certainly how it must’ve felt to hold out hope that those first messages would make it across an ocean (literally), and the receipt of response must have felt like a significant victory for those involved in making it happen. And that optimism carries through the remainder of Being’s 20-minutes. And the brightness of the piece is apropos: it’s a personal event that must’ve been momentous to the engineers that made it possible, but almost impossible to actually internalize in terms of global and historical impact. And it’s a tribute to the mastery of Being’s own narrative that he is able to reflect that element of subdued personal victory.

The Humble Bee’s composition is called “West to East”, referencing the narrative of the originating message being sent from Ireland to Newfoundland. There’s something darker and murkier about it than the first Being piece. It’s shrouded in much more hiss, glitch, and broken beeps, so much so that the sounds are distant and fragmented. But this is a different story. Where Being sought to create the optimism of those initial on-off tones, The Humble Bee piece seems to replicate the more literal aspects of the moment – it almost feels as though it is about the technology at work, struggling to deliver its message. There’s optimism in there too – but it’s almost buried as it struggles to overcome the fallibility of technology and distance. It’s a very tonally different piece, but complements the Being piece well.

Andrew Hargreaves’ “(eastwestwesteast)” splits the difference and acts to unify the two narratives. More rhythmic and more overtly melodic than either of its predecessors, it embraces the brighter hues of Being’s piece and seems to make them even brighter. It serves an almost cathartic release to end the narrative. On another level it serves to exult the moment. Where the Being piece seems to be about the quiet triumph of a personal victory, Hargreaves’s piece seems to reflect a greater historical triumph just through the sheer warmth and grandness of its melodies.

As a whole, this is a release from 3 artists who are consistently on point even when at their most experimental. It’s an interesting jumping off point for inspiration and made even more interesting by hearing different artists provide their take on it. And for Wist, it represents another strong release as they wrap up 2016.

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