Environment-based editions are a dime a dozen these days, trying to discover a special item a pretty hard assignment. Fear not, though: just walk towards Dale Lloyd’s ever-impressive And/OAR to come across a catalogue as diverse as the various facets of human activity, not to mention the level of touching intensity shown by some of this label’s records over the years. This splendid work by Clouter and Mullender was originally conceived in 1999, year in which they decided to gather sounds that “would serve to illustrate how precious the sonic environment can be, and to act as founding materials for a soundscape collection at the British Library Sound Archive”. All the pieces of this CD borrow from original recordings made in 2001 in regions of Japan and China.
The sources of these impressions are traces of urban life and organic reverberations perceived in different settings including temples, private gardens, deserts and beaches. The team-mates appear to be principally interested – as confirmed by the extremely detailed notes of the accompanying booklet – in the phenomenon of booming sands, which they frantically tried to capture in several occasions, mainly during a stay in the Mongolian desert. Indeed the sounds recorded amidst the dunes characterize the vast majority of the second half of the program - the one where a distinctly droning nature, which renders the acoustic landscape ominous at times, seems to prevail as opposed to the more variegated expressions – sea waves, children at play amidst talking folks, metallic thuds, kitchen-related noises, squeaking objects, traffic and other assorted symptoms – that are mostly found in the Japanese files, but also in the conclusive episode taped at the Labrang monastery in Xiahe, largely characterized by the creaking spinning of Tibetan prayer wheels.
Leaving details aside, what actually strikes is the way in which Clouter and Mullender managed to seize and subsequently organize the inherent musicality of these flashes. It’s right here that contenders get separated from pretenders in this particular area. One thing is sticking a microphone outside a window and finding an excuse to release whatever happens in those sixty minutes; another is embarking in a project of such extent and significance, a trip that is not strictly geographic but touches the essential aspects of the reactions that humans have when confronted with aural occurrences that do not belong to a daily familiarity. Those responses are fundamental in determining who we really are, as the behaviour in front of sound is the perfect gauge for a soul’s depth and, at large, the real value of hypothetically “sentient” entities. The amazement of the two partners, clearly expressed at the end of “Dune 3” after having heard marvellous murmurs, is an indicator in that sense. It shows the degree of love for existence that is necessary to individuate a quintessence, something that was achieved completely in this case, unpronounced mysticism and earthly manifestations blending in physical radiance.