Though he's been active as a musician, composer and instrument/installation builder for 35 years, this is Max Eastley's first solo set, a compendium of recordings of his minimal sound-making devices. Beautifully packaged, with many fine photographs of his installations in situ, the discs are sequenced into short suites, with the sounds of one installation blending into the next. The only thing better would be films of these contraptions in operation. The recordings may bring up questions of what music is, what it may be for, and why would anyone take the time to build these things, let alone spend time listening to them. Answers can be found in this catalogue.
The sound makers themselves are all deceptively simple, some looking a bit like colorful children's toys while others resemble an odd welding of low-tech machinery to groups of natural objects. So what do these strange gatherings of wood, wire, paper, metal, stone and electricity sound like? Some sound uncannily like nature, birdsong or a babbling brook. Insects. Rising and falling wind-assisted whistling. It's all beautiful stuff, and excellently recorded, especially given the age of some of the recordings.
"Motors and Metal Rods" sounds like a randomly played zither or harmonium, which fades after a few minutes to give way to "Aerophones 3", an excited flock of seagulls, overtaken by "Serpentine Gallery Installation", a droning buzz with wooden notes which stop and start. "Installation for the film Clocks of the Midnight Hours" has more wooden notes with metallic chimes. "Stone Circle1" starts with a droning airplane, followed by sounds of dragging and hollow ringing. Some of the sounds are repeated in different contexts/spaces, attaching new overtones and resonances to devices previously heard. "Motors and Metal Rods 2" has some nice bass rumbling and a lot more overtone build up. It's nice to put one of these discs in the player and just let it repeat all afternoon. I do find myself wishing that some of the tracks went on longer, especially disc 1's "Centriphone- amplified and filtered", rising and falling harmonics that shimmer aurally.
The tracks are all notated with dates and places of recording, and a handy list connects each photo to it's respective recording. We are lucky to have such a document. And while you may think that two discs worth of this kind of thing is a lot to sit through, believe me, you'll want more when it's over.
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