Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Chris Watson

The latest Touch newsletter arrived in my Inbox earlier this morning and I see that two of sound recordist Chris Watson’s early albums, 1997’s Stepping into the Dark and Outside the Circle of Fire from 1998 appear to have been discontinued on CD, the newsletter says rather ominously, "Compact Disc edition no longer available". A quick check at Amazon UK reveals that copies of Stepping into the Dark are starting to dry up but fortunately Outside the Circle of Fire is still available so if you’ve ever thought of picking this album up, now is the time… All this has me listening to Outside the Circle of Fire again, an extraordinary collection of environmental recordings of animals, birds and insects in their natural habitat. Listening to these recordings, there’s a sense of continuity between Watson’s pioneering work in Cabaret Voltaire and the experimental audio research unit The Hafler Trio. Watson’s recordings may feature lions, owls and beetles, but separated from the familiar imagery of natural history programs, the sounds could just as well have strayed from an electro-acoustic work, or an early Industrial record (the purring cheetah that opens the album wouldn’t have sounded out of place as a Throbbing Gristle backing track). And I love the evocative titles of the recordings – “Cracking Vicera” one of Watson’s more famous recordings documents a flock of vultures feasting on the carcass of a zebra, while “Souls of Dead Children” is named after a recording of wailing kittiwake seabirds. You can sample the album at Chris Watson’s bandcamp page

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