Monday, January 17, 2011

Rural Route No. 3 - Martin Clarke (Rural Route Series)

Rural Route No. 3

Martin Clarke
Standard Form Records.

SCQ Rating: 55%

For the same reasons I dislike watching music videos, I avoid reading press-releases. And not only because I fear that their insistent use of hyperbole might worm its way into the vocabulary of my subsequent review; it’s in how they pre-posture our listening experience, evoking open-door metaphors and super-technical descriptions which almost pre-empt any disagreements over quality. That said, in the case of Martin Clarke’s contribution to the Rural Route series, I was chasing down any authoritative press-release I could find, hoping to contextualize the CD-R’s eight self-described “States” beyond their dislocated bouts of sound audible. Clarke’s brief press-release, tellingly, calls the work “semi-abstract non-representational spaces”. At least he’s honest.

Because ‘States 1’ through ‘States 8’ contain ambience without any discernable musical touchstones, however, this press-release reads more like a light-weight theoretical accessory. These field-recordings, capturing a forceful gale and the rattling of nearby clutter on ‘States 2’ or studying claustrophobic insect anatomy on ‘States 4’, fit cleverly into Rural Routes’ loose concept of environments and nostalgia, but their underlying purpose – as a disc to be listened to – feels more academic for sound-artists than any music-lover. The lengthiest track, ‘States 5’, records what sounds like a rusted gate creaking just shy of its latch for five minutes, whereas ‘States 8’ scores what very well could be someone trying to recap a stubborn filter onto a kitchen tap. As faithfully as these tracks display irritable sounds we’d knock politely on our neighbour’s wall in an attempt to cease, there’s no semblance of rhythm or depth behind even the atmospheric earlier numbers that would warrant repeat-listens.

Still, Clarke’s work illustrates a fresh although dry-as-hell perspective of time and memory that’s far removed from the other, more compositional Rural Routes segments, and that “non-representational” aspect broadens Standard Form’s considerable focus on this theme. While inconsequential on its own, its role as Rural Routes’ nihilistic low-end actually benefits the series as a whole.

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