Field recordings have never been more in vogue. From drum and bass to hip-hop, to post-rock and minimal techno, they feature in every conceivable genre of contemporary music.
They might not always sound like they come from the field, but few albums are without them these days, as artists frequently find themselves using colloquial sounds recorded with their iPhones.
Actual field recording full-lengths tend to be far fewer and in between, and often focus more on environmental and documentary sounds, expertly recorded, as non-musical works.
Though there are hundreds of such releases available, there are few, if any bonafide stars in the genre. Former Cabaret Voltaire member Chris Watson is perhaps the best-known of them all.
Enter Brooklyn composer and producer Raz Mesinai (Badawi, Ghost Producer and Subdub) and his new Battleground full-length, Sonic Hauntology.
Drawing on recordings made on both sides of the Atlantic before and during the Coronavirus pandemic, the album is about life in the big city, where death and the dead are all around you.
Recorded literally everywhere – Austria, Belgium, Canada, Spain and Mesinai’s hometown, New York City – Sonic Hauntology is about surviving underground, culturally as well as physically.
Contrasting field recordings of caves and tunnels with the sounds of transit platforms and casinos, Mesinai tells a story of social immobility, of being stuck below the surface of pre-pandemic life.
For an artist with as many records to his credit as Mesinai, creating everything from music for string quartets to hip-hop and digidub, Sonic Hauntology sounds like a brand new start.
Chalk it up to Raz Mesinai’s choice of field recordings, and how he recomposes the outside world to bring to the surface its artistic characteristics, without ever quite turning them into music.
The sounds are haunting and elegiac, real and otherworldly, recalling everything from early Merzbow and Einstürzende Neubauten and National Geographic documentaries.
This is what the world actually sounds like. Leave it to Mesinai to capture it in its sonic totality.
Sonic Hauntology is distributed worldwide by London’s Cargo Records.