Sublamp is Los Angeles based sound and video artist Ryan Connor. Raised by scientist parents and with easy access to a number of the most spectacular national parks in the US during his youth, there is no surprise that early influences on his musical style were borne of the environment, nature, observation and deep analysis. His previous releases on labels such as Ahora Eterno, SEM, Dragon’s Eye, Friendly Virus, Pehr and Serac explored rich ambient textures derived from field recordings and non-electronic instruments. There was a clear fascination with sound as a non-verbal means of communication which perhaps stems from observation of animal communication, pre-language experience and cognitive studies.   

If you thought any of the above was going to feed into ‘In Our Hiding Voice’ then you will be in for a surprise as this album takes us on a trip into altogether darker and more unsettling places which are wholly at odds with the peaceful grandeur of national parks.  The premise of this album is that the sounds you will hear are those which may be heard by someone hiding in derelict factories, abandoned old  houses, sewers and tunnels. Connor himself cites Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 science fiction film ‘Stalker’ as a major influence on the direction that his music took in this work.  The film itself has a kind of post-apocalyptic feel and much of the footage within the wilderness of the ‘Zone’ was shot in old hydro power plants and factories. 

Bearing this in mind the listener is at once abandoned to a location ‘Understairs’ in the first track with the sound of gently throbbing machinery reminiscent of a turbine hall in a hydro-power station. Above this pleasantly throbbing drone a static buzz dances around and occasionally chatters while softer strings gently pulse in the background. The second track ‘Dear Carpetfoot’ opens with deep chugging drones and sweeps of white noise punctuated by gentle tonal pulses. There is a sense that the drone machinery of this fictitious sonic world has a life of its own and the hissing sometimes sounds like breathing in this piece.  

Other tracks vary between quite harsh, but never unlistenable,  industrial soundscapes to quieter more organically derived pieces with gentle warbling drones and carefully interwoven harmonic structures. The dreamlike ‘We Sleep in a Room-Shaped Hole’ includes a hypnotic train track pulse amidst generator noise. ‘Corner Ghost’ could be straight out of a ‘Silent Hill’ game with its creepy heavy vinyl static, ticking sounds that pan around, electrical shorting and EVP like static from the void.  ‘Paper Floors’ sounds like an aeolian harp being blasted by an overdriven wind machine that goes out of control and curiously ends on a recording of what sounds like a paper rolling press grinding to a halt.

When you really listen to this album a second or third time you get so much more out of it. At first I thought it was just going to be an album of industrial noise, but it really goes much deeper than that and has a peculiar narrative that only becomes apparent with close listening. I was also surprised to find that the album has no synthesiser input whatsoever given that all of the sounds are typical of these instruments. In fact the majority of the sounds derive from Electric Guitar run through a Fender tube amp, recorded to tape, looped and passed through an amp again!

This is a fascinating album which is likely to remain one of the most unusual experimental works of the year. It will have you hitting the play button many times over as you explore the complex textures of this unusual sonic territory.

Sublamp – In Our Hiding Voice. Hibernate Records HB23. Release in February 2011 TBA.

Hibernate – http://hibernate.bigcartel.com/product/sublamp-in-our-hiding-voice

Sublamp Website – http://sublamp.com/

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