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Reynols / Erdem Helvacioglu - Rampotanza Grodo Rempelente / A Walk Through The Bazaar

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Artist: Reynols / Erdem Helvacioglu

Album: Rampotanza Grodo Rempelente / A Walk Through The Bazaar

Label: Locust

Review date: Sep. 16, 2003

The idea behind Locust Music's Met Life series is simple. Sound artists/composers from various cities are commissioned to make a field recording from their region and then compose a piece with the recording as source material. Each disc has a before and an after track. There doesn't seem to be any other parameters stipulated and it's one of those shockingly new ideas – shocking in that it hasn’t been done before.

Volume Three of the series is by the collective Reynols, who are known to record inanimate objects 'making music', so they seem an apt choice for such a project. Hailing from Argentina, they contribute Rampotanza Grodo Rempelente, a recording of steel workers at a construction site in Buenos Aires circa 1994. The source piece preserves the familiar sounds of machinery found in any city and is rather plain. Built mainly around the rat-a-tat-tat of the drills, it doesn't appear to use any noteworthy recording techniques outside of simply documenting the environment. Reynols accessed their archive of field recordings to find it, but the nagging question is why? The solution to the mystery could tap into the catalyst of inspiration, but ultimately the reason why they picked the steelworkers instead of recording something new for the Met Life project remains unclear. Their source material serves only as a prelude, almost a cleansing of the palette in preparation for the feast, since it doesn't appear to play a significant part in the final product. Fortunately, they have something worthwhile to contribute when they pick up the instruments for their interpretation. As psychedelic pranksters they lead listeners out of the construction site and into the night to the other side of town where neon lights buzz and crackle. The aural outline of a desolate factory appears and an organ kicks in. Steel doors start to squeak and the machinery slowly begins to start up. A séance has begun to summon the spirits of the machines. Sounds bend and twist and swirl, but the processional fades after a mere 15 minutes.

For Volume Four of the series, Erdem Helvacioglu, a Turkish electronic artist, takes us on A Walk through the Bazaar. Here the source material is interesting and exotic. and Helviacioglu fulfills the promise of the title. One can hear traffic, cell phones ringing, music playing, and people haggling. It's just a simple recording of a small moment in time that serves as a fine document of the place in period, so naturalistic it almost seems archival. The remix fades in nicely and the bazaar still hovers low in the background, only to falter quickly when a barrage of atypical phasers come in midway through the piece and reduce the work to run-of-the-mill techno. Here the source material is noticeable in the final piece, but ends up being far more interesting than the interpretation.

The packaging for the series is commendable, with the discs housed in fine and attractively printed gatefold sleeves, but the Met Life titles are puzzling. It's hard to shrug off mental images of a multi-million dollar ad campaign for life insurance. Locust Music is doing a fine job modeling itself after two American treasures in the world of independent music – Folkways and ESP-Disk. Whether their intriguing sound experiments will have any longevity remains to be seen.

By Ted Sonnenschein

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