Thelmo Cristovam - Paisagens Sonoras em Ostro Hyija
CD-R, Triple Bath, 2008
I have to admit that the press release accompanying this release by Brazil's Thelmo Cristovam did not fill me with joy. Ascertations like "he is into extended playing techniques on wind instruments" and "he investigates radio art, sound poetry and Brazilian indigenous music" made it sound a little trite, but as soon as you press play you forget any preconceptions you may have. Recorded between the years 2003 - 2006, and presented chronologically, this is a collection of perfectly constructed bubbles of time and space - each track is complete, finite, and seemingly disconnected from the others, yet as a whole they compliment each other perfectly. The artist is quoted as saying that the work deals with the abstract sonic fields of Ostro Hyija - "an imaginary place that could be a planet, a city, a country or a dimension" - whatever, it would seem, the listener hears in it themselves.
Opener "Aco" is an atmospheric slice of ponderous introspection, where each noise serves only to enhance the feeling of an echoing space, building to a slowly grinding crescendo then fading almost instantly back into that almost- nothing, laced with eerie, displaced chords. Lulled by its rhythms you suddenly find yourself falling headfirst into the buzzing maw of "Os Jardins Electromagneticos de Ur", full of strange jitters and clacking, clicking distortions. You struggle for comprehension -at once it seems like an electrified tropical forest's soundtrack, and also the speeded up noises of an everyday office. It's disorientating but compelling nonetheless, creating an insect like aural collage before grinding suddenly to an unexpected stop, and you find yourself straining to catch the beginnings of "Pradarias Inversas". At 23 minutes this is the longest track on the CD, and it certainly seems in no rush to get anywhere, allowing a slow, constant stream of "pure field recordings" mixed in real time to set the scene and play off each other: a dog barks, barely heard voices speak, and always the low reverberation of unseen machinery, everything is at one step removed, as if observed from a distance, but as the track progresses it seems to draw itself together, becoming a swirling maelstrom of sound which draws the listener in. Throughout there is the sense that you are hearing something private, limited to a conception that may or may not be your own, but this time it envelopes you completely before fading back again, to the gentle whisper of the opening few minutes, dissolving finally into shivering echoes. The album closer "Construções em Barro, Vidro e Plasma" is unpleasant listening: comprised of "concept-specific recordings of walls, floors and windows of a building" it starts with what sounds like the magnified, distorted sound of ripping material, before dropping suddenly into a deeply unsettling landscape, building then switching again, changing and mutating constantly, at first seemingly without connection until slowly a motif becomes clear, each snapshot of sound creating an image of something greater than the sum of its parts. There is something more sinister in this track than the rest- it is most certainly a fitting end to an uncomfortable, if gripping journey.
In summation, this complex, thoughtful effort is well worth checking out via the Triple Bath website. Personal, engrossing and utterly without pretension, it is a welcome change from the increasing number of mono-toned, featureless soundscapes.
-- Catherine C. [7.5/10]