1005-2 Eric La Casa:::: W2 [1998-2008]
"We think that we « make a journey » but soon enough it's the journey that makes – and unmakes - us." (Nicolas Bouvier, "l'usage du monde")
When I listen today to these pieces, I hear, of course, a geographic inventory of all the places I encountered. Above all, though, and as if by default, I hear the sonic journal of twelve years spent recording sound.
My relation to the sites wasn't based on a desire to « document » but it is worth noting, however, that a « sound story », more trivial perhaps, has instituted itself, expanding and commenting on my musical journey: that of a man listening.
Moreover, it has never seemed more obvious to me that listening is always situated in what I would qualify as the extreme present, that is, the instant when listening, landscape and time become one.
Bouvier was right : the more we journey, the more the journey transforms us. Fascinated by water and by wind, these agents of transformation, activators of change, became, during those twelve years, my principal, almost exclusive, subjects, wherever I happened to be. Progressively, a methodology, informed by cartography, gave my way of working a certain determinism without, however, breaking my intuitive relationship with the landscape. This also informed my conception of that which is sonic (le sonore), and its importance: being inside, at the very heart of movement. Listening, without drawing breath, led me beyond my preconceptions – and into the depths also, along with all my recording gear: I remember very well my fall into the cold water of a waterfall's plunge pool. That was in 1991...
Listening to water or to wind is to bring one's attention to bear on the perpetual motion of things, a living alchemy, the pulsing of the world.
Eric La Casa, Summer 2010
1. Les pierres du seuil part 4
2. Les pierres du seuil part 5
An exploration of the wide variety of water territories (from droplets in a cave to powerful ocean waves), in two movements, forming a single composition.
3. Les pierres du seuil part 2
At the emergence of a body of water and air, an effervescence
4. S'ombre part 1
The alchemy of water and stone, summer
5. Spirale 3
The geophony of a river : a meandering journey, marked out by windmills
6. Les oscillations part 2
Waves, oscillations .... an opening up of the landscape
7. L'Inspir du rivage part 2
Ressac... when the sea and the rocks come together
Total running time : 74 minutes
1. Dans le feuillage du lointain, la clameur d'un bruissement
At the boundary with background noise, an ineffable tumult
2. Les pierres du seuil part 6
Listening to the wind's journey through the landscape
3. Quelque chose de cela, le désert part 1-2
A distressed wind in a still life landscape
4. Les pierres du seuil part 8
A factory entrance, air expelled by machines
5. L'air au fond rouge
The density of air, a city's distant rumbling
6. Les aubes sont navrantes
A false northern landscape, cold and hostile... a drama
Total running time : 75 minutes
2. (1999) from "Les Pierres du seuil 4-7" CD . Edition… (USA). September 2000
4. (1999) excerpts from "The stone of the threshold" CD. Groundfault Recordings (USA). November 1999
5. (2003) Unreleased. Commissioned by The River House [?] at Saint-Georges-de-Montaigu (France)
6. (2004) excerpt from "Les Oscillations part 1&2" CD. Fringes Recordings (Italia). May 2005
7. (1999) from Explorer series, 7". Production : Povertech (USA). September 1999
1. (1998) from "The sound of nature - the nature of sound" compilation. Kaon (France), July 2001
2. (2000) from "Les Pierres du seuil 4-7" CD . Edition… (USA). September 2000
3. (2000) from "Quelque chose de cela, le désert part 1-3". Collection Mémoires (France), May 1999
4. (2001) Unreleased. Originally composed for Halana magazine (USA)
5. (2001) from "Sul" compilation, a tribute to Chris Marker. Sirr.records (Portugal), June 2002
6. (2008) excerpt. Unreleased. Originally composed for Clédat & Petitpierre's performance
Locations [1994 - 2007]
Ardèche (steps in the Pissevieille brook / rain on a car / summer rain)
Athee-sur-cher (river Cher in full spate)
Bedoues (river Tarn)
Berry (oozing in a watertank)
Bruxelles, Belgium (machine for rinsing out photographs)
Choisy-le-roy (artificial rain in an industrial zone)
Crotelles (Rain, under an umbrella / brook and brook pipe)
Darnetal (rain on container)
Dieppe (music school organ)
Dunkerque (swelling sea with lighthouse / dunes / sand in wind)
Dunkerque-Sollac (air-cooler / ore in motion)
Epeigné-sous-bois (outflows in trenches and reverberating pipes / water, air bubbles, at the edge of a field)
Grenoble (wall dripping in the 102 venue , during a soundcheck for Cellule Metamkine)
Haute-Savoie (Nant Bruyant brook / violent rain on a car)
Hennequeville ("tubular sea" / heavyflood-tide on a concrete platform)
Le Semnoz (rain falling on a small covered market)
Lozere (Gorges of the river Tarn)
Nouvellière (in a farm, rain after a storm,)
Paris (hail on window / rain and storm in inner courtyard / oozing in a tunnel / outflow in inner pipe / the Ircam anechoic chamber : hand sliding on skin and microphone in mouth ) Paris (in a cemetery, rain, under an umbrella)
Plaisians (foot in dried herbs)
Pordic (distant helicopter / wind in a cornfield )
Port Jehan (waves and peebles)
Vendée (the "Grande Maine" and "Petite Maine" rivers)
Céré-la-ronde (in a wood)
Choisy-Le-Roi (airplane flying overhead, water cleaning station : electrical waves, water-pump engines / ventilations)
Dieppe (music school : organ)
Dunkerque-Sollac (ore in motion / foundries / hot rolling mills / blast furnaces)
Epeigné-sous-bois (in an oak forest)
Hennequeville (North Sea)
Lussault-sur-loire (fir forest / grinder in the distance / a windy day in a forsaken house / a stormy )
Montlouis (a stormy night / train in the distance)
near Neuil (a forsaken farm)
Paris (Salpetriere chapel and Notre-Dame-des-champs church : organs played by Jean-Luc Guionnet / portable DAT recorder motor / Strasbourg-St-Denis metro station : electrical waves / seeds in motion)
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges (empty goods trains)
and three locations in Europe :
Rovinj, Croatia (lightning / rain and storm in an inner courtyard / rain on an open window frame / along the sea shore)
Rovinj, Croatia (inner courtyard and wind under door / thirty-story tower, radio waves / strong wind in marina)
Anvers, Belgium (a pedestrian tunnel and elevator)
Dundee, Scotland (in the harbour)
2 x Audio CD
Release date: November 2010
18 Euros + shipping order
Also by Eric La Casa
Eric La Casa / Cédric Peyronnet: La Creuse
murmer :::: frame work 1 - 4
Lasse-Marc Riek :::: Harbour
Battus / Marchetti / Petit: La Vie Dans Les Bois
Eric Cordier / Seijiro Murayama: Nuit
Pascal Battus: Simbol / L'Unique Trait D' Pinceau
Jean Luc-Guionnet / Pascal Battus: Toc Sine
Jean-Luc Guionnet: Non Organic Bias
Eric Cordier: Osorezan
The Silent Ballet
April showers bring May flowers. That's what makes this time of year a perfect time to experience W2. For Americans who may be thinking, "W2 is the the name of my tax form, due April 15," there's no need to worry; this W2 is one disc of Water and one disc of Wind.
Eric La Casa has been making elemental field recordings for over a decade. Most of the tracks here have been previously released, which makes this project a sort of "greatest hits" compilation. Not that anyone is likely to say, "this 1999 track is obviously outdated; today's rain is so much better." Thankfully, the recording quality is consistent throughout. The sounds are crisp and three-dimensional, never isolated to a single speaker.
Those who are only familiar with field recordings due to relaxation tapes and sound effects are in for a surprise. The letdown of those recordings is that they manage to make nature sound bland and benign. Consider for example the various "sleep boxes", with settings for "gentle rain", "heavy rain", "wind" and "waves". Most of these are simple variations on white noise, with no discernible beginning, middle or end. The thunderstorm discs are especially maddening, reducing the EQ until the frightening becomes flat.
Now think back to some of the memorable storms of your own life: a windstorm that shook the rafters and toppled the oak in the front yard. A sudden hailstorm that dented the mailbox. A lightning storm that began with a rogue strike. A flash flood that cleared the beach. A hurricane that knocked out power, and its quiet, subtle eye. You may remember what some of these sounded like; you may wish you'd found some way to capture them.
This is exactly what La Casa manages to do, in tracks that range in length from three to twenty minutes. He records the sound of droplets in a cave, reverberating pipes, the sea by a lighthouse, flood tides on concrete, even "artificial rain in an industrialized zone"; a blast furnace, electrical waves, seeds in motion, wind beneath a door. The artist intentionally selects a variety of locations and sound sources, increasing his range of aural treasures. One suspects he's also performed a bit of studio manipulation in order to produce coherent tracks - either that, or he can run really fast between sound sources. Other noises pop up from time to time - a dog, a factory, a helicopter - but these are wisely kept in the mix, as they provide an extra serving of territorial grit, operating in the same manner as guest instruments at a concert.
Fans of instrumental music will likely be led to make structural comparisons. The architecture of these pieces often simulates that of post-rock, which itself imitates the classical: ebbs and flows, anticipatory builds and cathartic climaxes, quiet-loud-quiet-louder still. But it's fair to say that the wind and water came first. Years ago, before reviewers began to compare dramatic music to soundtracks, they compared symphonies to storms. So perhaps here we are hearing echoes of the first music: the Spirit of God, like a mighty wind, moving over the face of the deep. This primordial essence is W2's secret strength: on the surface, it's just water and wind, but at its essence, it's wild and unknowable.
- Richard Allen -
I am, unfortunately, only minimally familiar with La Casa's previous work, so I have little direct idea how this set fits in though given that the recordings selected here were apparently amassed over some period of time, I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't more or less representative. Whatever the case, they're marvelous and present, at least in part, the other extreme, where the field recordings are all that is the case, however much they've been processed, layered, etc. (which I'm assuming is often the case here, though I could be wrong).
Two discs, one of water sounds, one of wind. Why they sound so fantastic is, as I said above, rather like figuring out why an Eggleston snapshot is similarly so. The choices made, obviously--picking this set of sounds as opposed to that one, the sculpting involved, the ability to focus the observer on one or several foci (the amazing, metallic resonances in "Les pierres de seuil, part 5" on the water disc, for example). The sheer drama of the moment (or contrived moment), what La Cassa, in his notes, refers to as the "sound story". The wind disc immediately offers sounds that seem more wind-caused than purely aeolian. But so, so full and...windy. And, I must say, an awful lot of drama. The arc and tension of these pieces may betray the compositional actions taken but they're so finely limned, one doesn't care. Describing them seems fruitless--something about the wind tracks is very special, maybe their sheer presence and seemingly endless variation within the form. Difficult to say; they seem to sum up the gist of an entire slice of the world, maybe the way Eggleston's teenage employee pushing a shopping cart manages to sum up his.
Among the best of this area that I've heard.
- Brian Olewnick -
Compositions using field recordings of wind and water are ten a penny these days. As portable digital recording equipment falls in price, it feels like every other new release attempts to document natural soundworlds and turn them into music. So given their current ubiquity it would take a particularly fine set of such recordings to grab the attention. W2, a collection of pieces gathered together over the decade between 1998 and 2008 by French field recordist Eric La Casa is just that.
Eric La Casa notes on the two CDs included here, one containing water sounds, the other wind, he does not seek to document nature as much as his personal journey through what he describes as a sound story. Certainly the narrative found in the 14 tracks here, the sense of drama flowing through them, sets La Casa's work apart. Just five minutes into the opening track on the Water disc, as a crash of thunder cuts across streams of running water recordings, the music becomes more than just documentation - it takes on an almost symphonic form. From the thunderous force of water thrashing against stone on "S'Ombre Part 1", to the seething effervescence of fierce rushes of air on "L'Air Au Fond Rouge", these 14 compositions are alive and present in the room. It is testament to La Casa's sound choices and his placement of them into simple but highly effective structures that these tracks feel so fresh and exciting. If the composer's journey has a tale to tell, it is full of twists and turns, one minute vibrant and colourful, the next quite bleak and hostile, as with some of the more sombre recordingd on the Wind disc.
Rather than merely presenting audio snapshots of nature, La Casa's work over the last decade reflects something of the human condition in the environment that surrounds us. A beautiful collection of pieces from a vast and significant body of work, W2 engages the listener far beyond documentary voyeurism. A personal journey for La Casa maybe, but it is impossible to listen and not be swept along its path.
- Richard Pinnell -
Crow With No Mouth
Eric La Casa has spent 12 years listening to the wild, 10 of them documented on his 2010 2-CD release W2. With acutely attuned ears and intuitively placed microphones, La Casa focused from 1998 to 2008 nearly exclusively on the sounds of water and wind. He describes his work as improvisations with the sonic locale, less interested than many of his contemporaries in capturing and evoking a location, more interested in what he calls, variously, the pulsing of the world, an ineffable tumult, and the alchemy of water and stone. You won't be far into W2's chronicle of La Casa's last decade of traveling, listening, and recording, before you are pole-axed by the drama, intensity and elegance of what he heard. Some of the pieces own tensions and frissons akin to any orchestral works I could cite; several are laminal and offer an envelopment rivaling that of machine-made drone works. How does La Casa create work so distinct from mere field recordists? I couldn't tell you, but I can offer a few reflections that arose as I listened to W2 with the best suspension of discriminating between instrumental music/location recordings I could muster.
Like Snyder's immersive and immediate effects when he writes about the elemental, La Casa has a sensibility and approach that regards all that he records [and shapes with some post-production] as alive, sentient, and thus co-equal with the poet/sound artist. In other words, he is pointing his mics with a specific, from my perspective, rarified, state of listening. Beyond technical protocol, La Casa writes, listening becomes tied up in the surfaces of the world. What a fantastic articulation of the sort of mind it requires to hear the constant music in the natural world. While Snyder obviously cultivated, in part, his attunement to the music of water, wind and stones with formal zen training, La Casa's words might as well be a page from a similar sutra - Listening is always situated in what I would qualify as the extreme present, he
said in one interview, the instant when listening, landscape and time become one.
wind - void - word
The two CDs bear the rubrics Wind and Water; you will hear both forces on both CDs, even, occasionally, humans and machines. The ineffable tumult La Casa references is pervasive across both discs; these are not recordings offering a tamed natural world, much less a soporific one. There are startling moments of hell-raising racket [there is, as well, the percussive play of the plinks and droplets of water's small, patterned sounds, and some assuaging, at least temporarily, breezes]. It is the wind disc, however, that most strongly evokes for me the idea of La Casa's orchestration of the rawest elements - while the water disc offers a range of sounds from pointillistic [droplets] to thunderously symphonic [great cataracts and torrents are loosed!], the wind music is terrifyingly forceful at times, impossible to gild with romantic or lyrical associations. La Casa shapes the high-pressured, gathering power of a wind storm like a hair-raising, ascending orchestral work. In one piece the wind is exciting and agitating some sort of metal structure, and the resultant protesting groans and howls of metal, well, bring that aforementioned pole-axing I promised.
Your water is light/to my mouth
The water music La Casa presents from various locales reveals how inadequate a descriptor
water music really is; most such signifiers strain to convey what a sound sounds like - words like location recording, electro-acoustic improvisation, modern classical, et. al. La Casa's water music, in other words, owns such a vast range of sources and sonics, how could they all be contained in water? You are presented with sections and movements of engorged rivers, rain pelts, cave-reverbed drips and plonks, oscillations and waves that sing and cease altogether. La Casa's contemporaries, at least those who approach this level of richness, sonic diversity and uncontrived drama, are Toshiya Tsunoda, Chris Watson and, with a gusto akin to both Snyder and La Casa, Jeph Jerman. In literature, there is Gary Snyder, the poet who, as he put it long ago, moves in and makes home in the whole.
I wanted to say something about Snyder's deep connectedness to the elemental by drawing attention to his most lived-in face; his incantatory poetry speaks for itself. I also wanted to say something about how disconnected most of us who listen to this music are from the practice of the wild, at least a practice that includes actual exposure to the elements heard in La Casa's music. Perhaps another time I can write about the strangeness of our listening to the heaving, pulsing cataracts of the natural world through stereo speakers, rather than being engraved, as both Snyder and La Casa are, with the sources of this music. Some of us clearly want to be moved by these forces, seeking them in the music and poetry of these watchful and elegant minds. Eric La Casa's W2 is essential, elemental music, give it your ears.
- Jesse Goin -
Eric La Casa est l’un des grands artistes de l’enregistrement de terrain (field recording). W2 est une compilation double regroupant les essentiels de sa production de la dernière décennie, sous deux thèmes: l’eau (disque 1) et le vent (disque 2). Un généreux menu de prises de son délicates, riches, composées avec soin, où les mystifications sonores se glissent entre nos oreilles au lieu de survenir. Notons particulièrement la présence de plusieurs pièces de la série “Les pierres du seuil” (à l’origine sur The Stones of the Threshold et Les Pierres du seuil 4-7). Et trois inédites. À déguster quelques-unes à la fois en immersion totale, ou en fond sonore continu, question de se dépayser.
Eric La Casa is one of the greatest field recording artists out there. W2 is a 2-CD compilation of his essential works of the last decade, organized into two themes: water (disc 1) and wind (disc 2). A generous helping of delicate, rich sound art works composed with care, where sonic mystifications quietly slip inside your ear instead of marching in or deafening you with surprise. I’ll point out the inclusion of several pieces from the “Les pierres du seuil” series (originally published on The Stones of the Threshold and Les Pierres du seuil 4-7). And three previously unreleased tracks. Immerse yourself into a few at a time, or use as background music to alter your environment.
- Francois Couture -
This double disc is a collection in at least two ways. Firstly its a collection of pieces that have been released before on various compilations and secondly they are thematically grouped. On the first CD we find pieces that deal with water sounds and on the second pieces of wind sounds. All of that to be taken literally. For many years Eric LaCasa has recorded sounds of water and wind, and built pieces out of that. How he does that is not entirely clear, I must say, but no doubt I said that before. Is a piece of music here a straight recording of water running down the stream, or wind blowing through tree tops, or is it a combination of sounds, mixed together to make a piece of music? That's the question, and my best guess at answering that question is that its the latter. The water disc has pieces recorded from streams, but perhaps also rain and/or a combination of both. Its not easy, I must admit, to enjoy these discs. The water pieces at one point made me want to run for the toilet. A bit more variation, such as short and curiously EQ-ed 'Les Oscillations Part 1', was perhaps needed to be the perfect counterpart to the water pieces. In that respect the wind CD is much more interesting. Here too I am a bit clueless as to what I am actually hearing, but the wind seems to be moving objects around - objects of origins unknown obviously - and there are other noises moving around too, like street sounds, car passing and other motorized objects. This makes the whole disc more varied and when you don't look at the CD display, it almost makes a seventy minute soundscape piece, slowly moving from section to section. This 'Wind' disc is pretty damn fine listening experience, perhaps more mysterious than the 'Water' disc, or maybe more 'obscure' is the appropriate way to say that. Mixed feelings here about the whole thing, but throughout quite enjoyable.
- Frans De Waard -
Really taken aback by the possibilities of rejuvenating and processing the field recordings I had a stroll with Eric's La Casa new cd from Herbal International which sets yet another groundbreaking frontier for further development of musique concrete genre in new context.
Eric is just but a few of the field recordist along with Marchetti, John Grinzich,and a few others who really transmutates the very thin tissue of raw sounds into soundscapic scenario of impossible possibilities and curves it down to the limit so the listener doesn't really distinguish the "road itself" from "the road taken". As in the quote from Nicholas Bouvier brought back by Eric himself - the journey we make unmakes us - in this sense unmakes the perceptive process to a point of great sensitivity.
It may sound a bit pretentious but these recordings do really investigate our listening process - so dim and blank overwhelmed by the magnitude of invading means of today's culture, that you may find a totally different angle of getting yourself to NOTICE what's been all around you...really important collection of music.
- Hubert Napiórski -