Bruce Gilbert and BAW - Diluvial

Artwork & photography: Jon Wozencroft
Sequenced and mastered by Russell Haswell

Track listing:

1. The Void
2. The Expanse
3. Dry Land
4. Lights
5. Creatures of Sea and Air
6. Beasts of the Earth
7. Rest/Reflection

Local preoccupations with rising sea levels fuel Diluvial - a work that dwells on the dynamics of flood geology and global warming; creation stories and climate change. Diluvial is an evolving soundscape and environment by Bruce Gilbert and Beaconsfield ArtWorks (David Crawforth & Naomi Siderfin). This work was initiated on the Suffolk coast for Faster Than Sound, Aldeburgh 2011 and then developed for a show at Beaconsfield, London later that year.

Taking rising sea levels as its theme, Diluvial imagines the world before, during and after the next great flood, referring to an ancient, ex nihilo interpretation of global warming. Field recordings from beaches in Suffolk and London, conceptual scoring, visual installation and sonic performance fuelled Diluvial’s evolving soundscape, alluding to the mythical seven days of Creation. Diluvial was a compositional collaboration in three iterations between Bruce Gilbert and BAW (David Crawforth and Naomi Siderfin).

Synthesised sound generated by Gilbert and Crawforth in response to Siderfin's score and iPhone field research, was assembled over seven weeks into an electroacoustic composition: The Void, The Expanse, Dry Land, Lights, Creatures of Sea and Air, Beasts of the Earth, Rest/Reflection.

Bruce Gilbert is a founding member of the influential art-punk band Wire and a pioneer of experimental noise. He studied art and found a niche in the late 1960’s avant-garde music scene and continues to work as an iconic figure. He makes visual and sonic works in a range of media.

David Crawforth and Naomi Siderfin – Beaconsfield Art Works – have been collaborating on experimental solo projects since they co-founded Beaconsfield in 1994. Their art interventions have exhibited internationally and whether installation or performance, almost always involve sound.

The development and exhibition of Soundtrap V: Diluvial was generously supported by PRS Foundation, Arts Council England, Big Shed and Hydrosphere.

Reviews:

Brainwashed (USA):

Gilbert has not been a prolific solo artist even after departing from Wire, but whenever he has released new material, it has been of the utmost quality, and this record is no different. A concept album on global warming and floods in collaboration with Beaconsfield Art Works (David Crawforth and Naomi Siderfin) is no different. Mixing treated field recordings and electronic instrumentation, Diluvial is another high water mark in his impressive discography.

On pieces such as "The Void," the field recordings are either processed beyond recognition or are entirely absent, as the focus is on melodic drones that have a distinctly mournful mood them. Bits of static and interference come through but on the whole it is a subtle composition of understated melody and beauty. "Lights" has a similarly electronic approach, mixing dark low frequency tones with ring modulated noises and crackling static. Even when the more dissonant elements take over in the second half, it always shows admirable restraint. In Esse this most certainly is not.

The natural recordings do appear clearly on "The Expanse," in the form of hollow, metallic rainfall that follows aquatic sounding oscillator passages. The closing half of the 12 minute composition is especially gentle, capturing just the most subtle sounds of water that are almost inaudible. The exact opposite atmosphere is drawn on "Dry Land," in which what could be arid desert winds are paired with subtle clicks and vibrations, and perfectly matching the imagery of the title.

"Beasts of the Earth" also goes for the literal interpretation of its name, with both recorded nature and synth derived insects swarming, as is the use of actual and virtual bird calls on "Creatures of Sea and Air." Like "The Void," "Rest/Reflection" also drops the field recordings to focus on depressive, echoing electronics that perfectly channel darkness and disaster without succumbing to cliché tactics.

The aforementioned "Rest/Reflection" ends Diluvial on a perfect note, as that final composition has the ideal balance of tension and pensiveness. Gilbert, Crawforth and Siderfin manage to capture a significant number of themes, both historic and modern, throughout this album. Creation myths and social advocacy aside, the music contained here stands on its own and serves as a reminder just how brilliant Bruce Gilbert is as an artist, and that his genius has shown no signs of reduction as time passes. [Creaig Dunton]

pinkflag.com (The official Wire forum):

I purchased it from Touch as I like physical product, but also enjoyed being able to immediately download it. Remarkably different from what I was expecting. Not so harsh with considerable environmental field recordings thrown into the mix. While no rhythms are present, it is musical and sounds like what it is supposed to be: an allusion to the seven days of creation... a concept album. On my second listen and am finding it be perhaps Gilbert's most intelligent release ever. Remarkable, full, long (9-13 minute) soundscapes and nothing like any of his previous works. It is a collaboration and I gather the field recording aspects of it are attributable to BAW (Beaconsfield ArtWorks) while Gilbert scored it. In that regard, it reminds me of his soundtrack work for Downriver, only better. In fact this is so good, it is probably his best work to date. I really like the logic of it... each immense track evolves into the next (although there are distinct track separations). Quoting from the liner notes: "Taking rising sea levels as its them, Diluvial imagines the world before, during and after the next great flood, referring to an ancient, ex nihilo interpretation of global warming." [specotron]

Whisperin' & Hollerin' (UK):

A single, almost subliminal drone hovers for an eternity, interrupted only by vague crackles of digital distortion, forms ‘The Void’. This alone is almost sufficient to induce a fugue-like state. Slowly, you become attuned to the details, the textures, the resonances and irregularities in the sounds.

‘The Expanse’ lives up to its title, 12 minutes of sound of indeterminate – but possibly liquid – origin, circling around and pushing almost imperceptibly into the listener’s psyche. Subliminally penetrating and curiously powerful.

Headphone Commute (UK):

With the basic material including field recordings from beaches in Suffolk and London (recorded by Naomi Siderfin, half of Beaconsfield ArtWorks), Diluvial originates from “local preoccupation with rising sea levels – a work that dwells on the dynamics of flood geology and global warming; creation stories and climate change”. The basic material may consist of field recording of natural sounds, but the synthesized sounds generated by Bruce Gilbert (founding member of art-punk band Wire and a pioneer of experimental noise) and David Crawforth (the other half of BAW) in response to those recording take it to a completely different electroacoustic level. The result is a 74-minute soundscape, divided into seven tracks “alluding to the mythical seven days of creation“, guided by the track titles “The Void“, “The Expanse“, “Dry Land“, “Lights“, “Creatures of Sea and Air“, “Beast of the Earth” and “Rest-Reflection” – the latter being the only one featuring traces of rhythm. Diluvial was originally created as a Soundtrap V performance for in 2011, but we can consider ourself very lucky that the specialised Touch label has decided to release this album separately. Field recordings and the fear of a devastating flood due to sea levels rising faster than expected have never been recorded and interpreted more hauntingly than this! For more from Gilbert, check out his 2009 release, Oblivio Agitatum, on Editions Mego, as well as In Esse (Mute, 1997) and Ab Ovo (Mute, 1996).

Monsieur Délire (France):

Collaboration sur le thème de la hausse du niveau des océans, entre Bruce Gilbert (Wire, Dome) et le duo Beaconsfield ArtWorks (David Crawforth et Naomi Siderfin). 73 minutes de paysages sonores sombres, parfois menaçants. Courbe d’écoute bien maîtrisée, belle profondeur, musique totalement immersive (sans jeu de mots). Il est rare que Gilbert s’avance aussi loin dans l’électronique expérimentale ambiante, et c’est réussi.

A collaboration on the theme of rising sea levels, between Bruce Gilbert (Wire, Dome) and the duo Beaconsfield ArtWorks (David Crawforth and Naomi Siderfin). 73 minutes of dark, occasionally menacing soundscapes. Well-mastered listening curve, nice depth, totally immersive music (and it is NOT a play on words). Gilbert has rarely gone this far into experimental ambient electronic music, and it is a successful foray.

Documentary Evidence (UK):

After a summer routinely described by the red tops as a scorcher, it's easy to overlook global warming as a problem; judging by the peeling sound of ice cream vans, young tattooed guys with their shirts off and shots of Brighton beach with more or less every pebble occupied by sun-worshipping daytrippers, the concept of unprecedented changes in the global ecosystem couldn't be further out of focus. Yet it's precisely because of that environmental change that the UK and other parts of the world have started to experience freakish, non-characteristic weather changes of late, why polar regions are melting at unprecedented rates and why talk of consequent rising water levels are not to be ignored.

Such considerations should be front and centre of your thoughts as you listen to Diluvial, Bruce Gilbert's collaboration with Beaconsfield ArtWorks duo David Crawforth and Naomi Siderfin. Diluvial depicts life before, during and after what climate change experts regard as the inevitable great flood, with themes spread across seven discrete tracks. The tracks were recorded over seven weeks using field recordings taken from beaches in Suffolk and London, and the recurring focus on the number seven is down to Genesis and the Creation story. Further reading: JG Ballard The Drowned World and the more portentous sections of the Bible.

Originally realised for Faster Than Sound in 2011, Diluvial moved to the Beaconsfield gallery (co-founded by Crawforth and Siderfin) in London last year. The piece saw Gilbert and Crawford creating synthetic sounds and textures in response to a score and iPhone field recordings provided by Siderfin. Somewhat inevitably, given its focus, the piece expands from near-tranquility and a serene mill pond calm, but by 'Dry Land' the storms have broken and a controlled, devastating chaos has consumed proceedings, only for calm to then once again descend on the world - but a world fundamentally changed from where it started. Drones, scratchy static, hissing noises like electronically-processed tree frogs. insistent pulses designed to sound like water droplets and thunderous noise are deployed to evoke the subject matter, sounding both natural and completely manmade simultaneously; in that electronic soundworld we see the enduring conflict between mankind's relentless industrial progress and nature's pre-eminence, the former leading to the ascendancy and ultimate triumph of the latter. The concluding track, 'Rest/Reflection' has the trace echo of a discernible rhythm, sounding like a more organic take on Wire's 'Small Electric Piece'.

To use a word like immersive when describing Diluvial would seem horribly glib, but, given its concerns about water flooding the world, it feels quite appropriate in the circumstances. As a purely ambient work it has similar dark, industrial style angles to some of the work by The Hafler Trio but it brings with it a latent sense of terror and impending, unstoppable destruction. In much the same way as the confluence of sound, creative camera work and a careful appreciation of the mechanics of fear made the shower scene in Psycho capable of making people switch to baths instead, if you're remotely scared about water levels or environmental disaster then Diluvial is likely to induce a major anxiety attack; if you're not scared of those things, take a good listen to this, think about what it's vividly depicting and learn how to be afraid.

Loop (Spain):

This is a collaboration between former member of the art-punk band Wire and Beaconsfield ArtWorks formed by David Crawforth and Naomi Siderfin. This work started in 2011 in the Suffolk coast for Faster Than Sound from Aldeburgh, United Kingdom, and then was performed in Beaconsfield, London, later that year.

This album is based on global warming and its effects on rising sea levels and possible flooding that could happen worldwide.

'Diluvial' refers to what happens before, during and after the great flood and its seven pieces: 'The Void', 'The Expanse', 'Dry Land', 'Lights', 'Creatures of Sea and Air', 'Beasts of the Earth', 'Rest/Reflection', allude to the seven days of Creation.

For this work were made field recordings obtained in the beaches in Suffolk and London, visual installation and sonic performance that deploys different soundscapes. The synthesized sounds are made by Gilbert and Crawforth alongwith Naomi Siderdin scores and field recordings recorded with an iPhone. All this came together to make it an electroacoustic composition.

Soundscapes are a vital component in this album that interprets the creation of the world and there is in them an aura of mystery and deepness to get to that point where it was nothing ('The Void'); through penetrating drones. From nothing to everything ('The Expanse'), the vital element appears to support life, water. A few drops that are processed expand through the infinite space. Wind and other synthetics noises show a bleak and cold landscape ('Dry Land') where there is very little life. Compressed sounds are alternated with those that expand and slide on the environment ('Lights') and with a similar texture, 'Creatures of Sea and Air' unfold a steady drone and some underground tunes. On 'Beasts of the Earth' is appreciated in some point birds and insects recordings that are processed and has a dark atmosphere in the background. The last track of the album 'Rest/Reflection' continues the tension of this record between ambient and abstract sounds. [Guillermo Escudero]

Le Son du Grisli (France):

Ce sont sept pièces – et pas six, ni neuf ou treize, la faute à Russell Haswell, qui a tout découpé (sequenced) alors que Diluvial aurait pu faire une seule plage qu'on n'aurait pas vu la différence – dont Bruce Gilbert (c'est la rentrée, et Gilbert est encore prof principal ?) et BAW (pour le Beaconsfield Artworks de David Crawforth et Naomi Siderfin) nous gratifient.

Gratifient, j'ai bien dit ! Loin derrière, le passé pop-ambient-indus de Gilbert (en solo, je parle) ; loin devant, les visions de BAW. Alors voilà que se lève un rideau de fumée, l'ambient rampe sur quatre coudes, les bruissements opèrent comme jamais (comme toujours ?). Le plus de la chose réside dans les graves, dans les silences, dans les éléments inattendus (harmonica, grands vents, criquets inframodernes...). Pas assez orgueilleuse, la collaboration se dit “diluvienne”. Elle se nourrit d'eau (forcément), mais aussi de profondeur et de peuples grouillant qu'elle accueille. Pas assez orgeilleux, le titre de cette collaboration ne dit pas ce dont il est capable : vous envoyer (valser) l'arche de n'importe quel Noé à trois millions de coudées. Pour les simples d'esprit (tout heureux qu'ils sont) : c'est beau, très beau.

VITAL (Netherlands):

In my formative years, low on cash, I had to make choices as to what to buy and what not. I kept reading about Wire, but never bought their records when they came out. I am not sure why, other than the short on cash routine. However I got into the solo records of Gilbert & Lewis, one half of Wire, as Dome, Cupol and such like. Maybe I was into the experimental music more then into the more rock/post punk thing of Wire. Throughout the years I kept my ears wide open for any solo work of Bruce Gilbert, although I readily admit I wasn't blown away by his more noisy output. He's no longer a member of Wire, and only very sparsely releases new music, but here he teams up with a duo called Beaconsfield ArtWorks, short BAW, which is David Crawforth and Naomi Siderfin. Their album has global warming/the rising of sea levels as it's central theme, and all of the sound is generated from field recordings made at beaches in Suffolk and London, 'conceptual scoring, visual installation and sonic performance', into seven tracks - think the seven days of the creation, or perhaps Stockie's opera of seven days. Siderfin made the score and 'iphone field research', while Gilbert and Crawforth responded with 'synthesised sound'. While I am not sure about the recording process as such - either the work of improvisation or meticulously composing; it could be either way - I must say that every time I play this release, and it has been a few times in the past week - this grows and grows on me. Delicate and subtle electronic drone music, which is carefully constructed, and which somehow fits the theme of rising sea levels quite well. The music has a similar back and forth character of sea waves, not quick, not loud, but calm and introspective, but yet it seems to be on a rise all along. The electronic music imitates, or seems to do so, sounds from nature - sea, insects, wind - and it works in a great way. Every time I play this I discover new elements. Great stuff. I didn't exp ect something different from Bruce Gilbert. [Frans de Waard]

Exclaim (Canada):

Although Bruce Gilbert is primarily known for his guitar work with his former band, Wire, the English native has been heavily involved in the visual and performance arts scene since the early '70s. Bruce's latest project, Diluvial, is a high concept (sometimes indistinct) collaboration with sound artists David Crawford and Naomi Siderfin, of Beaconsfield ArtWorks (BAW). Reinterpreting Siderfin's score and field recordings, Gilbert and Crawford crafted seven electroacoustic soundscapes constructed upon themes concerning climate change and creation stories. As a single element in an installation, Diluvial holds up well, spreading wafting silence and sprawling minimal movements across much of the hour-plus LP, as Gilbert and Crawford follow similar ebb-and-flow methods to flesh out each track. However, it's Gilbert and Crawford's singular focus and immaterial acceptance of Siderfin's stock footage that make Diluvial a captivating and intriguing piece of art. [Eric Hill]

Other Music (USA):

Many still know English musician Bruce Gilbert for the band he helped found, Wire, and for good reason: It's not easy shedding the seminal role he played in one of rock's all-time great groups, even if he left the art-punk outfit nine years ago. (Wire is still active and still releasing terrific music.) But Gilbert has been a busy electronic/avant-garde composer since the 1970s, releasing many great albums for Mute, Editions Mego and Table of the Elements. Now he's teamed up with the duo BAW (Beaconsfield Art Works) for a compelling new record for the Touch label, Diluvial, easily one of the year's best electronic releases. It's a concept album of sorts, a soundscape connecting the urgency of modern climate change with biblical themes of creation and the Great Flood. The music, as one could imagine, is intense and forbidding, with Gilbert's punishing synthesizer mixed with BAW's field recordings and additional laptop work. The seven pieces are musical counterparts to the Old Testament's seven days of creation, and the results are dazzling, alternately eerie, hypnotic and lovely. The first track, "The Void" opens quietly and builds to a crescendo of jagged rhythms and lush synths; "The Expanse" is 12 minutes of minimalist drips and drops; "Lights" has a crackly warmth that brings to mind the best work of Mountains; while "Beasts of the Earth" powerfully evokes images of swarming locusts and destruction. We've heard electronic music inspired by the sea and nature before, but nothing like what Gilbert & Co. have created here, a polemical soundtrack to the end times that makes ecological disaster and biblical plagues beautiful and haunting. I'll be playing Diluvial when the next hurricane hits. [JBr]

Liability (France):

Alors que Wire continue son chemin, Bruce Gilbert poursuit le sien depuis un bon nombre d'année dans une veine beaucoup plus expérimental. Ses efforts solitaires comme In Esse, Insiding ou Music for Fruit sont des modèles que personne ne conteste tout comme ses différents projets hors Wire (Dome, Duet Emmo etc...). Pour ce nouvel album, Bruce Gilbert s'est associé à BAW (pour Beaconsfield Art Works) qui est composé de David Crawforth et de Naomi Siderfin dont on ne sait pas grand chose si ce n'est que le duo existe depuis 1994 et qu'ils ont participé à différents projets internationaux dans le cadre d'exhibitions diverses. On pourra également ajouter Russel Haswell qui fait office ici de travailleur de l'ombre en ayant séquencé et masterisé l'album. Pour Diluvial, Bruce Gilbert et BAW mettent leurs talents en commun pour un disque tout à fait intéressant, émetteur de signaux des plus saisissants. Largement construit autour de sonorités environnementales et électroniques, Diluvial est annoncé comme un album climatique et géologique. Dis comme cela, ça n'a pas beaucoup de sens, mais quand on écoute Diluvial on comprend plus facilement où les artistes ont voulu en venir.

Chacun des morceaux de l'album sont comme un tableau sensé représenter différents moments climatiques en un lieu précis ou plusieurs qui n'ont pas grand chose à voir entre eux. En fait, si, il y en a un. On a en effet du mal à imaginer que Diluvial évoque des ensembles urbains où la civilisation aurait pris le pas sur tout autre chose. Non, Diluvial évoque plutôt ces espaces vierges plus ou moins hostiles qui se nourrissent uniquement de leur environnement. En ce sens, le travail de création réalisé par Bruce Gilbert et BAW est tout à fait saisissant et est largement porté vers un réalisme qui fait oublier que tout ce qui est présent ici à été traité électroniquement. Diluvial est alors cette représentation d'une certaine instabilité, une force qui peut être tout aussi destructrice que réparatrice. Diluvial n'est alors pas à sens unique. Bien au contraire, il répond à cette logique climatique qui veut que rien ne soit fixé à l'avance et que tout est un perpétuel recommencement qui façonne au jour le jour ce qui nous entoure. On peut trouver ce disque un peu terne du fait de son côté brut et rêche mais il est aussi l'incarnation d'une nature aux multiples visages qui n'en finit pas de nous montrer sa beauté.

Pop Matters (USA):

Diluvial might be Bruce Gilbert’s most ambitious work since leaving Wire. Recorded in conjunction with BAW (Beaconsfield ArtWorks, London), this is an album that easily dwarfs Gilbert’s last two releases. It’s expansive in pretty much every sense of the word. It’s lengthy—of the seven tracks, the shortest one is over eight minutes in length. It finds Gilbert playing with his usual stash of clicks and buzzes. But then “The Expanse” manipulates the sound of a water droplet far beyond anything most of us would recognize. On “Dry Land”, the sound of a storm is so powerful it could spill over into another one of your senses (something tells me that land didn’t stay too dry that day). Once in a while, a little bit of “music” will creep into the mix as it does on “Creatures of Sea and Air” and the closer “Rest/Reflection”. Tones enter, shimmer, and provide moral support for the uninitiated.

But like 2009’s Oblivio Agitatum, Diluvial hits full impact through your headphones. The tracks blend into one another, so just make sure you have a 74-minute block of free time in your future. Then let the thing flood over you. [John Garratt]



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