Do you feel swept away by the ever-quickening spiral of time? Are you overwhelmed by a constant barrage of information? Do you wonder what, if any, experiences possess real meaning anymore? Cities (Utech Records), a collage of field recordings culled from global travel, will either exacerbate or alleviate these fears.
It’s a found-sound diary, but without the forced intimacy that perspective implies: these were singular moments in time for Away, but he is smart enough to mostly get out of the way and let the natural connections and absurdities speak for themselves. The array of encountered musical styles is enormous, from drum circles loosely pounded to informal orchestral run-off refracted from the walls. City hum filters through each musical breath in interesting ways as well. A public intercom announcement seemingly sings along to a gypsy waltz. Trucks and horns impatiently run through recorder ramblings and virtuosic oud vamps. A simmering crowd with uncertain energy makes several appearances.
These sounds bleed into each other. Locally, they ease from one recording to the next. Collectively, they smear into an amorphous streak of humanity. Do the brief exposures on this record reveal our common musical wealth? The untold beauty we inherently miss? A deadened, futile expression in a “vacuum” of saturation? A banjo flickers for a few seconds before washing away down a river of traffic…
Cities is too easily boxed as some ethnographic kumbaya. The closing track, “Chicago 2012,” summarizes one reading of the experience: it builds to a cacophony of symphonic instruments warming up, each remarkable sound lost within the overlaid whole, only to be cut off with shushing and silence. This seems to comment on the function of each preceding vignette, as if one offset multiple tracks and played them simultaneously.
It’s almost Varese’s Poeme electronique for globalization. Away impels us to savor these sensory phenomena, to reflect, before the next impending tidal wave of stimuli crashes, before time inevitably eats away at our fallible memory.