TARAB : Take All The Ships From The Harbour, And Sail Them Straight Into Hell
23five014, Compact Disc
published in 2009
$12.98, plus shipping
The title to this album from Tarab (nee Eamon Sprod) is striking enough in its allusions of damnation, with a watery grave a potential outcome from human activity impacting the earth. So, it may be stating the obvious that the corroded locations where mankind has scarred the surface of the earth feature prominently in the work of this Melbourne based sound artist. The residual elements of these sites become the agents for metaphor and allegory in Tarab's work, documented through field recording and sympathetic actions with found objects from those sites. One such location that features prominently in Take All of the Ships... is Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay. Once the home of an immigration station at the turn of the 20th Century and later a Nike Missile site for the US military, Angel Island now rests in the hands of the US National Park Service, which has left some of the buildings to succumb to the forces of decay. From the sounds culled from this site and others closer to his antepodean home, Tarab diligently overlays and stiches together a highly tactile composition with very little digital treatments to speak of.
Take All of the Ships... opens with an ominous rumble whose frequencies appear to emerge from the center of the Earth and liquefying the surface upon impact. As these tones ebb and flow, Tarab unveils as revolving series of exaggerated details from a hyperbolic gash of two heavy pieces of metal grinding against themselves to a toxic chorale of nighttime insects to sand, wind, and surf detourned into sedimentary white noise. Tarab's compositional sensibility shifts throughout the album, at first sparsely situating these sounds into shadowy vignettes. Gradually, Tarab coalesces this sublime opus into an arcing crescendo which exhibits sustained harmonics rarely heard in the best of the contemporary dronemusik technicians much less from the realm of sound ecology.
Like any fiction writer worth a damn, Eamon Sprod (a.k.a. Tarab) is a good liar. He takes what is familiar to us - field grabs of domestic, urban, and natural sounds - and distorts, heightens, and intensifies them until what was recognizable becomes strange yet still resonant with truth. He uses simple means - microphone placement, subtle manual manipulation of the environment and some careful editing - to create his extended compositions. His third full length recording, the cumbersomely and cryptically titled Take All the Ships From the Harbour and Sail Them Straight Into Hell, should put him at the forefront of the rapidly developing (and increasingly crowded) field recording scene. It also suggests that "field recordings" is becoming a dull tool for the job of describing what artists like Sprod and the roster of the Compost and Height download label are working at, a souped-up hybrid of musique concrète and field recording.
Like much work in the hybrid, Take all the ships..., a 55 minute suite of environmental sound, is drawn from a few specific places (in this case, Angel Island, a deserted military base turned national park), but is not really meant to be about that place. Instead, it is a layered series of sonic events that act as metaphors. The dominant mood here is bleak and overcast, and certain motifs recur: wind howling and whistling through pipes, ice cracking and tinkling, shortwave radio transmissions, the complaint of metal being scrapped and twisted, booming reverb that seemingly has no source. The sounds become signifiers of desolation, solitude, a creeping sense of life that has no human presence.
This metaphorical approach moves the result into fictive, often surreal territory, but, like G*Park, Sprod’s recording method is austere but meticulous. This means that his sounds retain plenty of natural reverb and keep their stochastic character. They hold the interest even when the inevitable lulls in activity set in, those moments when the piece feels more episodic than fully developed. But in their precision and ability to evoke tactile images, Sprod’s sounds are powerful ones, reminiscent of what Tod Dockstader has said about the sounds he preferred: "“I like to have edges. Sound to me is always very physical. I can feel, not just hear it. It has personality. It has weight, proportion. It’s like I can pick it up and hold it." The sounds are masked, but not abstracted. They are the kind of lies you want to believe. -- Matthew Wuethrich
A claimant for the top spots in the artistic area where acoustically stimulating communiqués exploit the interaction linking a specific environment and the objects that furnish it, Australian Eamon Sprod (Tarab) recorded the basics for his new record in regions of the globe that are both pretty close and very distant from where he’s based. In the latter case the zone in question is Angel Island, in the bay of San Francisco, which initially used to lodge an immigration center, then became an American military base, and today is managed by the US National Park Service. The remnants of what once were buildings stuffed with anguishing truths are decaying in silence; that’s exactly the kind of setting this man needs to create.
The lack of human presence is a too-heavy burden for the average soul to resist to, and I’ve often wondered what people who usually talk ad infinitum might receive from an opus like this, in which the most recurrent incidence is a sort of hushed resonance, in between a ghoul-infested hall and an abandoned warehouse that only a desperate somebody enters, expecting to unearth something “useful” amidst dumped materials and rotting debris. Past glories gone, nonexistent future, worn-to-shreds existences, yet a still strong dignity imbued with a special type of holiness. Concepts that quickly find their way across the psyche as one listens to these forlorn echoes, a crushingly desolate aural ambiance just rarely pierced by ruthless clanging abrasions, or enhanced by other kinds of crackling and hissing matters; sounds that progressively discover an accommodation in the deepest meanders of the brain causing an unusual intoxication, not obeying to the desire of distancing ourselves from a contemptible reality.
Is it the wind, or a poisonous gas? Are those whispering insufflations the last calls to observe the world’s leftovers before they definitively disappear? As soon as a powerful rumble is heard from a long distance we hold our breath, trying to virtually grasp the nature of that place and blow that vision away, ashes of meaning in the sea of ignorance. The sensitive listener remains silently waiting for more of those moments, in the vain hope of being led through a path of comfort. It doesn’t work, the frequencies of tarnished rational mechanisms and the reverberations of individual negligence sticking painful needles in the flesh of illusory beliefs.
Probably this is the best documentation released by Tarab until now: marvelously unsolvable, deeply affecting, incomprehensible for the populace, evolutionally constructive. Set aside a good chunk of your time and concentrate when listening, prior to even attempting to speak. It takes a while for this 56-minute piece to sink in; when it happens, a small fraction of enlightenment has been achieved. It corresponds to the awareness that the end is near, right behind the gate many herds are confidently, pretentiously, anticipating to traverse, childish victims of an absolute joke. There’s no need to be afraid, though: when the mind is not working anymore having reached its expiry date, hollowness suddenly stops spreading, and the cosmos breathes a little better. Transformed energy does not rant about god, but contributes to the propagation of a massive vibration. -- Massimo Ricci
Junk, dirt, dust, scratching things, found things, decay. This is the Australian based Eamon Sprod's third album, the follow up to 'wind keeps even dust away' also released by 23five in 2007. It seems Sprod has come a long way since then as somehow his music has become even sparser and even more focused. The focus seems to lie more in the urban landscape and not the rural like his last effort. Less flaking branch bark and flickering fires, more rusted metal scrapes (!) and mass rejected commercial detritus. Though there are moments of what could only be the result of isolated nature walks. I love this man's work. It's so peaceful and completely mind enveloping and he always seems to capture many different worlds of sound, as if he's taking us on a journey to all his favourite adolescent stomping grounds, but we get to experiencing it through years of wear and tear. Eventually, a windswept drone fills the spaces between the scrapes, blurring and dulling the sharp edges. Very nice. For fans of anything to do with the the tactile or discarded. Organum, Coelacanth, Small Cruel Party. -- Adrian Dziewanski
Though it's also a single-track composition, Tarab's Take All the Ships from the Harbour, and Sail them Straight into Hell... leaves little doubt as to how Sprod feels about mankind's habit of soiling the natural world with its creations. In place of a relentless sound mass that slowly diminishes in intensity, Tarab's piece alternates between quieter sequences of rustlings, creaks, and footsteps and louder episodes where heavy pieces of metal grind against one another. Field recordings figure heavily in the Melbourne-based sound artist's composition, with many of its sounds originating from Angel Island (a one-time Nike Missile site for the US military) in the San Francisco Bay area. Though Sprod arranges and layers the material with care and circumspection, he does so without altering the naturalistic character of the sounds themselves, and consequently the ease with which they can be identified helps keep the listener engaged throughout the fifty-five-minute piece (toy instruments and found objects are also used as sound sources). Cavernous whistles, rumbles, creaks, distant voices, water churning, winds, animal noises (pigs, ducks), and rattling surface during the piece's ebb and flow, before the materials swell into a collective, water-drenched crescendo. Listening to the recording is much like sitting on a dockside bench with your eyes closed, taking in the comings and goings of ships and all the rest of a typical day's sounds at the harbour, and then hearing them played back in an edited, hour-long form.
Oscillation, metal scraping on metal, dragged, large space, little sounds, pushing and pulling, drawing sounds from a well, giving way to a larger atmosphere, looks upwards, the movements made in the space, following ears and eyes, sense of touch, crunching and crackling, ebbs and flows, capturing dead industry, utilising abnormal machinery, thousands of automatons, mechanical insects, strata of life, the industry and the soil, breeds intrigue, 7:07, gives way to gradual silence, the reverberation of fricative liquids and solids, what has been, starts up, as if the mechanical insects are building from scratch the sounds of the distant sea, playing derelict objects, creating imagery that conjures their original purpose, beautiful hyperbolic crackles, 10:10, white noise, a switch to real insects, are they insects? Evolution of sound material, insects oscillating like drones reminiscent of the discs commencement, entomophobia, tunnels, passed out, miasma, life above, next layer, clamour of the upper levels seeping onto your skull, down the indented walls, are sounds coming towards you or are you going towards the sounds? Reoccurring crunching, heard with your eyes, realignment, looking up, again an open manhole cover, sparks of electricity hitting the dead concrete, what is the equivalent auditory terminology of a silent film? Relief 21:24, auditory storyboard, light, humorous, head sinking into a record player, intensely natural transition, each facet of each atmosphere is so real, so much so, it becomes harder and harder to quiet your mind, the thousands of imagistic unions.
Album cover acts as a graphic score.
Wind drenched landscape, recorded through a bottle, through a wall, a vacuum, the outside world heard through a beehive, inside out, complementarity, ectosymbiosis, felt through the senses of bacteria, auditory ecotone, saline meets fresh, attracting new life, ancient vessels rotting inside the whale, hulls rubbing against its rib bones, the blow hole of the whale creating a cyclic push and pull, enhancing the decay and rot, infrasound made audible, croaking beams, vast unseen patterns, microcosm of said images returning overhead, positive feedback, a fugue of micro and macro, each continually altering the others perspective, 37:02, torrential rain ends the story, drowning out all traces, leaving no remnants, an empty stomach to be filled with pistol shrimp, filters, a flock of birds heard through a wooden leg, temperature ebbs, ravenous birds dig at your feet, slowly engulfing. Listening through a tube whilst inside a tube, auditory retraction, cymatics, shapes form inside the tubes, sharp, a mended ear, feedback system, correlating information all over a series of circuits, receive as soon as send as soon as receive until such meanings are non-existent, roofs of the circuit in flux, naive realism, everywhere at once, vacant estates, drawing breath, a slow night, enclosed in a box, no ears, lead snow. -- Patrick Farmer
The Sound Projector
Tarab has no qualms about urban decay, however. He ends up using the very fabric of rotting cities to make music, as you will hear on Take All Of The Ships From The Harbour, and Sail Them Straight To Hell. This Melbourne-based artist made site-specific recordings in Angel Island in San Francisco, a zone with a lot of interesting 20th-century history but now apparently somewhat neglected. Combining his recordings with other similar recordings from Australia, Tarab has captured a mood and an atmosphere rather than documenting actual sounds of flaking plaster and rusting nails (although there may be some metal girders groaning in protest somewhere on this record). In like manner, C M von Hausswolff, Christopher McFall and Marc Behrens have each in their time exhibited a similar unhealthy fascination with deserted once-thriving urban areas, and like Tarab have brought some sort of melancholy, desolate process-art out of the experience.
Wanneer je album slechts één nummer bevat van bijna een uur lang, dan kan het maar beter verdomd goed zijn. In dit geval is het gewoon goed in zijn genre, doch geen echte uitschieter. Het genre noemt 'avantgarde' en de muziek bestaat uit één lange mix van veldopnamen en manipulaties daarvan. Best wel onderhoudend, maar ik ben toch blij dat er bij wijze van meerwaarde een uitleg bij hoort. Eamon Sprod / Tarab ging op zoek naar enige plaatsen waar de mens ooit geweest is, maar die hij reeds lang achter zich heeft gelaten. Wat er nog staat zijn lege verroeste barakken, achtergelaten zwerfvuil, niet meer gebruikte installaties e.d. ... Het schoolvoorbeeld van hoe de mens een nestbevuiler is en zijn nest na een tijdje achterlaat. Denk aan woorden als 'desolaat' en uitdrukkingen als 'Door God vergeten'. Voor dit album deed Tarab vooral veldopnamen op desolate en door God vergeten Angel Island voor de kust van San Francisco, ooit een immigrantenquarantaine, daarna een marinebasis met kernkoppen en nu een Nationaal Park. Met zijn opnamen en enige 'objects trouvées' nestelde Tarab zich in z'n studio om dit verrassend afwisselende, half organische half elektrische klanklandschap te maken. Het geduld van wie de volledige rit uit zit kan beloond worden... Misschien ook een idee: laat deze CD een hele nacht op repeat spelen in uw huis. Wedden dat inbrekers het eerst in hun broek doen alvorens hun geluk te gaan beproeven bij de buren?
Ë premire écoute (plutôt distraite, a bouge beaucoup ici aujourd'hui), voilà un disque d'art sonore particulirement intéressant. L'ouverture (un boum issu des profondeurs de fréquences en flottement) est saisissante. Une composition lente et minutieuse de textures métalliques et aquatiques. Mais ce n'est pas du drone. C'est plutôt prs de la musique électroacoustique ou de l'art sonore d'un Daniel Menche ou mme d'un John Duncan. Je dois absolument le réécouter dans des conditions parfaites. Je flaire la perle –– Francois Couture
Artiste sonore autant préoccupé par des considérations écologiques militantes que par l'édification d'une musique de drone puissante et organique, Tarab (aka Eamon Sprod) a joint l'utile et l'agréable sur cet album au titre virulent. Puisant ses sources dans des field recordings extrmement environnementalistes (bruit de vents, crissements d'insectes dans le sable) ou dans la manipulation d'objets lourds, de pices métalliques notamment, Tarab les transpose dans un exercice sonore hyperbolique, chacun de ces éléments se retrouvant volontairement exagéré, grossi, dans une entité sonore massive et ondoyante, flirtant dans ses moments les plus intenses avec un white noise éruptif et dans ses moments les plus calmes avec un dark-ambient distancié et épidermique. Une expérience métaphorique à l'impact certain. -- Laurent Catala
Artista e designer del suono con base a Melbourne, Eamon Sprod (in arte Tarab) consegue diversi diplomi d'indirizzo artistico-musicale e quindi debutta in varie compilation di elettronica sperimentale, tra il 2005 e il 2007. Solo nel 2009 raccoglie forze, ambizioni e programma stilistico per realizzare "Take All The Ships From The Harbour And Sail Them Straight To Hell", il suo primo lavoro maggiore (firmato per 23Five Inc., la sua nuova community di artisti elettronici indipendenti). Tributo di un'ora ai poemi di musique concrete del passato, "Take All The Ships" crea un'atmosfera rada ma asfissiante, discretamente avulsa dall'impostazione teorica di Varese e Xenakis. Stridori metallici, scie ventose, rimbombi e radiazioni suonano come voci nel vuoto che emergono a varie altezze (con un uso spastico di crescendo casuali, tagli improvvisi di strati di suono, pianissimo impercettibili, drone inquinati). Nel suo insieme, la piece appare come un "Eskimo" Residents-iano ormai disabitato, rimasto preda di forze arcane silenti. Si pu˜ anche decidere di non crederci, e allora si perde un viaggio di musica possibile (campionato in buona parte nelle ambientazioni Angel Island, dalle parti della baia di San Francisco) in un pre-storico industriale che sbanda nell'astratto ambientale. -- Michele Saran
Una lunga traccia di cinquantacinque minute costruita su field recordings registrati per la maggior parte su un'isola nella baia di San Francisco. Angel Island stata un avamposto della marina militare americana e ancora prima un centro di smistamento per gli immigranti che entravano negli Stati Uniti. Sull'isola campeggiano ancora grandi costruzioni metalliche per lo pi abbandonate. Eamon Sprod ha provato a descrivere la desolazione di quest'isola, oggi Parco Nazionale, con i suoi microfoni. Pochissimi gli interventi digitali in post-produzione. Come per tutti i dischi della 23five consigliato l'ascolto in cuffia. -- Roberto Mandolini
Eamon Sprod, also known as Tarab, has already released a CD on 23Five before Wind Keeps Even Dust Away (see Vital Weekly 579) and before that on Naturestrip (see Vital Weekly 422). We now learn that his music deals with places where "mankind has scarred the surface of the earth" and from the recordings of those locations he creates a soundscape. Here it is Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, which was once used as an immigration station, then a Nike Missile site for the army and now left to decay. There is lots of 'empty space' recorded, like a wind howl through a large empty space. Then somebody stumbles at the far over a piece of metal, and decides to scrape that along another piece of metal. The microphone is moved slowly to the outside and we hear more wind and water. All of that is used here by Tarab to create a piece that sounds like a 'live' piece but surely isn't. He has put the sounds together in a very delicate and precise way, resulting in this very fine soundscape, which seems to be a bit more drone like than before. Fine music again. -- Frans De Waard