I know that taking afternoon walks in 95 degree heat really isn’t the best idea, but I find myself doing just that. Sun beating down, cooking the asphalt like some molten pan of industrial brownies, I’ll take to the afternoon oven and walk 2 or 3 miles through housing additions nearby. Headphones on, I’ll fill my head with whatever can distract from the absurdity of my actions.
I can remember three years ago I took one of these heated strolls while listening to Colonial Patterns by Huerco S. The looping rhythms and dulled synths seemed to align with the heat perfectly. During this particular walk in this particular neighborhood there’s a stretch of road where no houses exist. It’s a simple strip of road where either side of this street is a short, dense bit of trees. Here the breeze stops and for a moment it’s as if I’m in an airtight bit of earth; no air movement and all sun beating down like some solar bully. The music in my ears seemed distant and muffled, like the sun and heat were dissolving it before it could come to fruition. In that moment there was both immense comfort and momentary terror, as if in that stretch of secluded street I no longer existed. I was walking on the surface of the sun in full view on no one and nothing, dissipating to my essence as “Plucked From the Ground, Towards the Sun” worked its way into my skull, disappearing into the pulse that ticked in my throat.
Just as I thought I’d surely vanish into the ether I made my out of that dense, hot stretch trees and turned a corner into an open view of the neighborhood and a hot wind hit my face. I had returned from beyond.
As I sit and listen to Smokey Emery’s(aka Daniel Hipólito) newest release, Soundtracks for Invisibility Vol. lV : Photo of a Painting, I’m taken back to that feeling of the hot, afternoon walk. Industrial noise permeates the release like machines running in some echo chamber of the mind. I imagine Henry Spencer’s walks home to his apartment through industrial landscapes in Eraserhead as this album runs through my head. It’s the kind of noise you might hear late at night making its way out of your head as you try to fall asleep. Excess white noise leaving your brain that wakes the imagination and tricks it into hearing more than what’s there. This isn’t an album for the passive listener, but there is a calm detachment if you look for it.
Here’s a quick description of the album:
The Soundtracks for Invisibility series is a compilation of pieces that are conceptually centered around specific subjects and/or spaces. By combining field recordings from various locations at vastly different speeds, Hipólito is able to link displaced moments into cogent soundscapes. In this way, Smokey Emery utilizes time and substance as compositional elements that play an equal, if not dominant role in the sonic architecture.
This record feels like time and space slowed down. There’s a detachment of reality with Soundtracks for Invisibility Vol. lV : Photo of a Painting that can feel hallucinogenic at times. There are moments of what sound like melody intertwined with the sheets of the droning field recordings, but they make themselves known only but for a moment.
There are many moments on this album where you feel as if you’ve stumbled across a distant carnival in a dream and can vaguely make out what sounds like music. “Where There’s No Ocean” sounds like distant life existing on some forgotten plane. “Dear Birds” warbles and echoes like a world being devoured by itself. Otherworldly noise created through a very real world committed to tape and then cut, pasted, looped and affected with echoes and wavering analog interpretation. “She is Outside” feels like pensive waiting on a street corner or a walk on a long stretch of lonely road. There’s tension, whether real or imagined. “Bright Keys” morphs like a song melting in the tape deck, something distant and strangely familiar turning into just strange.
Soundtracks for Invisibility Vol. lV : Photo of a Painting will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Field recordings slowed down, covered in effects and manipulated may not be something you’re willing to explore. But for those that are willing to step into Smokey Emery’s sound world and take a chance will be rewarded with repeated listens. Given that this is Vol. lV, there’s three other volumes to take in as well.
Food for thought.
Limited edition cassette and digital version available here.
7.5 out of 10