Boomkat Product Review:
Gripping, heady explorations of the space between music and noise by electro-acoustic composer and sound artist Lea Bertucci, using her sax and tape techniques to explore the unique acoustic properties of a vast grain silo in Buffalo, NY
‘Resonant Field’ is Lea’s spellbinding 3rd album for NNA Tapes. Following her string of tapes and vinyl issues since 2012, including a striking 2015 collaboration with cellist Leila Bordreuil, it continues her investigations of physical spaces and their resonant properties across four pieces mostly recorded during the 2017 partial solar eclipse, at a time when “…the light was diffuse, tinged red and not unlike something you would see in a Tarkovsky film.” With environmental sounds bleeding in from the edges, the pieces all make towering use of the steep-sided concrete structure, harnessing resonances within the space that have lain dormant for decades, in a series of improvisations guided by its unique acoustic conditions.
As previously used in recordings of work by Alvin Lucier, Sarah Hennies and Nakatani Gong Orchestra, the Marine A grain silo’s 13’ wide, 90’ high dimensions are prized for their 12 second reverb decay which Lea uses in her own way. Combining in-the-moment alto sax performance with pre-prepared materials - overdubs of early flutes, 5-string double bass, re-amped field recordings of a demolition derby, lo-fi tape collage, and samples of percussion by Tigue - Lea conjures a music that plays with itself and the listener’s proprioceptive senses; animating the silo’s latent spirits in a beguiling web of entropic overtones and harmonic complexities that challenge ideas of vertical listening while also highlighting the liminal space between musical order and the elemental chaos of noise.
Two relatively short works bookend the album in the plangent peal of ‘Wind Piece’ and the barely-there presence of ‘Deliquescence’, while the main body of the record is two durational works full of elusive, ephemeral tones and and lushly dissonant transitions, each distinctly but subtly making use of electro-acoustic phenomena inherent to the natural world, and reinforced by the structure’s man-made concrete origins. Those phenomena aren’t necessarily pleasurable in a conventional, consonant sense, but for anyone with an ear for acoustic sound’s stranger fidelities, they will be immersed in otherworldly and ancient sounding use of tremulous beating frequencies and sustained plangency that recalls everything from Tony Conrad and Catherine Christer Hennix’s all-encompassing definitions of “minimalism” to Giacinto Scelsi’s explorations of single pitches or even the wonderfully disorienting clangour of Harry Bertoia’s Sonambient recordings.