The elusively-titled “Pell-Mell The Prolix” isn’t the first time Patrick Farmer and David Lacey have worked together on a recorded release — they also collaborated on the excellent “Pictures of Men” a few years ago. While the latter album was focused around a memorable extended field recording of pigs squealing, “Pell-Mell” collects and arranges a wide variety of short recordings into one long montage. Some of these recordings were obviously made in an outdoor or public environment, but most seem to consist of various ringing, whistling, or metallic noises; it’s often not clear whether the recording is of some kind of industrial or domestic process, performed percussive or electronic sounds, or a mixture of both.
To begin with, brief bursts of recorded sound, of unequal duration, sit surrounded by digital silence. Soon, however, the cuts are mostly instantaneous, without the silent padding, and later on recordings begin to bleed into one another here and there. A loud high-pitched ringing sound is contrasted with a deep quiet rumble; a faint, vaguely melodic whistling leads into a rush of air, a pitter-patter of rain-like static, and distant rumble and clatter. Quick footsteps walking outdoors, buffeted by wind noise, are followed by a cacophony of rushing air or liquid. A metallic vibrating sound — like a sort of Sarah Hennies mallet roll on a ship’s hull — seems to recur frequently, at one point dueting with various percussive thumps and bursts of ringing.
The often rapid, yet uneven editing and the recurrence of some sounds throughout the piece suggests some kind of score, or at least a definite structure, but I’ve been unable to work out the logic of it thus far. Perhaps that’s not the point, though: “Pell-Mell The Prolix” is both a collection of sounds that are interesting and pleasing in themselves, and an unfolding montage of contrasts to be followed, without either aspect overshadowing the other. Figuring out what sounds you’re hearing, or how they were made, is only part of the experience — the piece is as much an enjoyable meander through difference as a collection of aural delights.
Image: “Frightened Men and Horses” collage by Sarah Hughes