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Robert Crouch, "Sublunar"

cover imageCrouch's last release, A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth (Line), was a heavily conceptual work touching on location and memory that, even divorced from its intellectual underpinning, was an excellent piece of sound art. Sublunar may not be as steeped in concept, but again the audio (a live performance mixing existing material and field recordings) is the most important facet, and again he excels in creating a disorienting piece of familiar and unfamiliar sounds that blur together wonderfully.


Sublunar is the result of a live performance utilizing source material from fellow artists Rafa Esparza and Yann Novak as part of mas gestos y mas caras, a multimedia performance including sculpture and performance art.His reworking of the material is drastic, resulting in a performance split into four pieces of a very different sound and sense.A light static ambience enshrouds "Descension," capturing a variety of found sounds, like an insistent beeping sound that could be almost anything.Crouch works the various layers of sound together, coming together at times lush and rich, and at others thin and harsher in nature.This constant unending flow makes for a complex, captivating piece of sound.

"Brick by Brick" continues with the delicate water sounds from the previous piece, but at first Crouch keeps the mix sparse.What he does leave in the mix helps to build that sense of space and distance, like the architectural structures of his previous album.The emptiness soon becomes crowded however, as Crouch adds a droning, engine like noise that becomes denser and denser, engulfing the mix before letting it collapse.

The following "Listen to the Sound of the Earth Turning" has a more hushed, meditative sensibility to it fitting the title.With the static hum and detuned radio noise that define the opening of the piece, Crouch conjures the sense of hovering in air, off of the earth but not quite in space.This is only strengthened by the blowing winds that surge throughout, not cold or frigid in nature, but giving the feeling of hovering in open space.

The final part of the performance, "Coda (Sailing Stones)" continues the sense of space from before, but Crouch slowly brings the work back down to earth.The openness is mixed with field recordings of an unspecific nature; environmental sounds that could be recorded anywhere or nowhere.With this he adds some gorgeous tones and synth-like buzzing, shaped into a melodic progression before pleasantly fading away.

Separated from the source material, Sublunar may not have the same conceptual nature of his previous work, but his knack for mixing familiar sounds with unfamiliar ones is still strongly present.Here he manages to create a space that is both comfortable and alien, where the ambiguity simply adds to the quality of the sound.Given this is a live performance; it just makes this record all the more impressive.