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Wild Tracks

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Album Review

In filmmaking lingo, a "wild track" is a soundtrack recorded without picture, during production. On Wild Tracks, sound artist Russell Haswell has culled 73 minutes' worth of excerpts from much longer recordings made in the field, but those are not "field recordings" — i.e. they were recorded as possible soundtracks for film and other art projects, not as actual field recordings. What's the difference? Some of them are more staged and others sound harsher than what you would expect from a field recording CD. And yet, the album fits that category pretty well nonetheless. The recordings cover a wide range of situations, sound levels, and textures, making for an eclectic album built on contrasts. There's a near-silent recording of scatter-birds (propane-fueled noise-makers to scare birds out of sown fields) and a noisy helicopter ride. There are recordings of small insects (wasps, flies, even ants) and recordings of waterfalls — the scale varies wildly. The recordings are presented as is, unedited, uncompressed, uncured of the technical mishaps and intrusions from wind or passing aircrafts. The diversity of the material and sudden shifts in dB levels between tracks make Wild Tracks an uncomfortable listen — and a different beast compared to Haswell's previous releases — but a number of pieces are very successful at taking the listener elsewhere and putting a magnifying ear in unexpected places. Worth noting are: a recording of wasps entering and exiting their nest, recorded up close and from below with great stereo separation, giving you the impression (when listening with headphones) of being surrounded ("Wasp-War"); a hydrophone recording of ants rebuilding their colony after insertion of said hydrophone ("Ant Colony"); a magnetic field fluctuation detector recording flies being zapped by a hand-held device ("Electroswat"); and a snow fall recorded with hydrophones ("Falling Snow #4"). Also worth noting is the fact that the CD is packaged with a full-size poster/booklet in a Kidzbox®, which looks like a DVD case with a handle. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Wild Tracks, Russell Haswell
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