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Seth Cooke – Sightseer

Organized Music From Thessaloniki

Seth Cooke – SightseerAnother tiny offering from Seth Cooke, the man behind Pneuma‘s panoramas. He certainly has a talent for pulling surprising stuff from unusual places — who’d have thought pneumatic drills could sound so exotic? This latest offering on the intriguingly-titled Organized Music From Thessaloniki label is no different, a combo of no-input holler and decaying field recordings set under the moniker of Sightseer. The track titles give you possible clues about the context with “Fake Tan,” “Self Catering/Package Tour,” “Traveller Checks;” a bit tongue in cheek maybe, but it’s a sound diary of sorts, an alternative holiday brochure for the forgotten/ignored, photos replaced with scribbled interference, making you feel like that kid in Poltergeist, hands on the glass of the TV, hypnotised by the maggoty glare.

Things go off with a bang — or more like a jolt of mountainous hiss — instantaneously levelled into the soft raining rub of pebbles or leaves that’s the start of “Cape Coast Seashell Bowed on Minster-on-Sea Shore.” A family camping washout with the aforementioned seashell raising luxuriously from within with Aquarian frictions, only to be chopped into the vast gaping lull that is “Window Shopping.” A vibe that captures the ennui of such an enterprise in the sweet patter of exhaust pipes echoing inside hollowed skulls, skateboards, distant Hare Krishna bells, the tubular twang of plastic projectiles. A peculiar sense of emptiness suitably ending in grainy washes interspersed with the anodyne charms of a lift’s autovox.

I’m getting a real sense of something here, each track an asthmatic register of a space/spaces, a document of agitated betweens, the sort of stuff sound engineers fervently consign to the editing dustbin which Dif Juz coined “the vibrating air,” here caught between the externals of the microphone and internal life bloods of the mixer, mingling, cross-pollinating in grainy exchanges. In later tracks you hear water rolling, roaring, like it’s trying to detune itself, morph into something beyond, switching channels for the machine to weave its invisible hypno threads; even the perceived silences are eerie, resonating with charge, contrasting beautifully with the hot bubbling bounce of the noisier moments.

It’s great stuff, though its overtly textural nature’s probably not to everyone’s taste: I’ve had numerous requests while writing this to “turn that racket down” whilst cranking the volume up to hear the tiny machine elves chirping away only to rush to lower for a surprise bombardment of tap-born wash-pools, voodoo pins and pinching sine whines. It leaves me wondering if that Greek island fort depicted on the cover played any part in the sounds here, hoping so, a dictaphone lodged in one of those cannons, perhaps left to suck up more than the scenery.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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