Boomkat Product Review:
The foremost sound recordist of his generation, the very fact that Chris Watson is as familiar to viewers of Springwatch as he is to fans of the Touch label must surely confirm that this man has a singular talent in his field, able to capture and bring to life the natural world in the most vivid and vibrant details regardless of whether he's working on BBC nature documentaries or on his latest project as an artist in his own right. This latest collection of works sees a momentary departure from Touch, and finds Watson under commission by an Italian organisation, who've recruited him in order to capture indigenous sounds of the Alpine region, Trentino. Watson begins by recording the motion of air at 3000m above sea level, at temperatures of -25 degrees C, which results in a steely barrage of sound particles - quite an assault on the ears. Next comes a bizarre, almost musically resonant piece, documenting airflow around a mountain summit, which part way into its duration is interrupted by some passing ravens. It's incredible to think that this deep, majestic hum should arise from the natural environs of the mountain. 'Bucaneve' also manages to render the processes of nature in a fresh and revealing way; it's an eleven-minute study of what Watson bills as "a snow field melting out into a high pasture sound stage for a blackgrouse performance". Performance is the right word for it too: you can hear the birds incredibly clearly and quite alarmingly up-close. Something that separates Watson from his contemporaries is his ability to give a sense of proportion and dimensions to his soundscapes. There are countless dreary documents of birdsong floating around in various discographies within the microsound community (usually accompanied by directionless acoustic guitar strums and other such ornamental fluff), but it's incredibly rare that you encounter someone like Watson, who gives you a genuine sense of foreground, middle distance and background in his recordings. He offers not only a subject - a focal point for his microphones - but also a well-represented context for that subject too. Even when he's making what might be termed 'ambient' recordings, the clarity and scope of what's actually captured is never short of revelatory. The watery motion and precipitations of 'Aguane' provide a wonderful example of that, capturing the texture of the various sound flows in a staggeringly tactile rendering. Throughout this album, the striking colours of the vast and multi-layered alpine habitat are captured in mesmerising detail, and anyone interested in the voices and timbres of the natural world will not want to miss this.