EARPOLLUTION : Spherics
Leaving behind his fascination with the human voice -- both speaking and singing -- Michel Banabila has turned that same level of focus onto more mechanical realms. His new release, Spherics, is a collection of instrumental soundtracks for a mechanized age. "A Strong Sense of Urgency" grows out of the sounds of a steel factory: the hiss and spark of molten metal, the alarms and urgent signals of the machinery, the distant ring of the foreman's phone in his dusty office, the spinning whine of a hi-speed saw. There is a rolling urgency to this track, an increasing density to the music which could easily represent the rapid advancement of the pace of this 21st century. Spherics hasn't the same joyous celebration of the human voice which suffused both VoizNoiz I and VoizNoiz II. There is more tension to be heard here. The environments are more oppressive, more claustrophic, with an underlying sense that something is lurking. The main section of "Science Freak" is built around the labored rhythm of an iron lung which is about to fail, wheezing back and forth as it tries to pump air. And, while there is a minute or so of transcendence in the middle (provided by Jorien Muste's violin, which darts and threads its way throughout this record), the machine breaks down in the end, going dark, the lights and charge gradually fading from its metal and wire body. "Worm Jazz" shakes and rumbles with the echo of pile drivers, vast machinery providing a relentless thunder underneath the constant hum and cycle of the smaller machines in the foreground. "Suma 4 - Blue Mix" is the only break and it comes as an interlude of historical reminiscence. A loose tabla rhythm pulses in the background behind a carefree guitar melody. This interplay is woven through a field recording from a public place -- a train or subway station -- where human voices are never distinct enough to be understood, but yet audible enough to be heard as human sounds. But Banabila keeps us distant; we hear the recorded echoes of human voices as if the only persistence of their passage is the recorded media. Is this machine nostalgia for a time when the trains ran and the lights glowed because people actually came to this place ? Are there only crumbled pillars and dust-covered passageways now, and human history is only a faint tremor left in the air? "Suma 3 - White Mix" is reminiscent of work by Pole, all crackles and static pops layered over a slumbering bass line and sluggishly dreaming hi-hat. This is the sound of the urban street just before dawn when everything is still but for the white mist rising from the manhole covers and orange lights flicker from the next block where a solitary streetsweeper has been abandoned by the curb. This is an unreal city -- a city cloaked by fog and void of human habitation as if every person departed while dreaming. Banabila's soundtracks on Spherics are much more impersonal, not so consumed with the energy of human life, but rather tuned to the frequency of the passage of human existence.