Sunday, 28 June 2009

Ben Owen - radio in

Ben Owen - radio>in

Ben Owen, who runs the wonderful winds measure label, describes this release as a “document recording consiting of an fm radio transmitter, a portable fm radio, and mixer. The fm transmitter sent a signal to the portable radio, the portable radio to the mixer, and back into the fm transmitter. No radio station signal was used, tuned to a fragment of unused fm radio band, the fm transmitter signal is captured and sent back to the fm transmitter via the mixer. ”

I can’t usually concentrate on anything else whilst I have a CD playing. I constantly find myself drawn back to whatever I’m listening to at the expense of other work, but this album seems to aid my concentration, where even if I’m paying attention to Ben’s radio detailing, I’m able to imagine myself working, and lo and behold… I am working. The degree of repetition involved with these three tracks can perhaps open up subjective interpretations in that the tones prevalent in the background seem to be traveling through a varying morphology upon every listen. This is a recording that sounds different wherever I place myself in relation to the speakers, and upon leaving the room I had to ask someone if it was still playing as tinnitus — which is evidently of similar prevalence — took over.

Yet the music stays in one’s head otherwise. Around nine minutes into the first track a large oscillating feedback drone is introduced — whether accidentally or not I can’t tell — but it serves to bring the piece forward, engulfing the subtler elements of sound that are the subject of focus. Towards the end of the last track more recognisable radio static weaves its way between the two speakers at different levels of audibility, leaving the possibility that what was heard was actually psycho-responsive and not encoded onto the CD.

The documentation of the radiophonic processes within the particular unused FM band that Ben is working from is an intriguing and very pleasing aesthetic, one that is full of processes on the brink of collapse as feedback engulfs the piece for sporadic moments, highlighting a more literal, creational process. It’s full of slight flutters and flicks that, if you you listen carefully, denote subtle changes in the sound, even if only for brief moments that serve to disassemble the omnidirectional sonic frequencies that run pretty much throughout all three tracks; frequencies that bring to mind the sound generated by plug-in mosquito repellents.

radio>in, for all its repetition and unrelenting high-pitched tones, possesses a surprising warmth, one that requires close listening, but lends itself to anything but.