Bethan Kellough - Aven

Compact disc in slip case - 5 tracks - 27:54
Limited edition of 500 copies

Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham

Live at Volume, Los Angeles, 30th April 2016 as part of Touch Conference

Track listing:

Descent
Vision
An Opening
Canopy
Low

The word ‘Aven' refers to an underground shaft that leads upward from the roof of a cave passage.

Recorded with SoundField SPS200 & JrF C-Series contact microphones, Sennheiser ME64, Sound Devices 788T, Elektron Monomachine, RME Fireface UCX, and Cockos Reaper. Field recordings from Iceland, June 2015 and South Africa, November 2015.

Strings performed by Bethan Kellough.

Bethan Kellough creates sound worlds that weave together instrumental materials, sound design and ambisonic field recordings. Her composition ‘Aven' is based on a recording made in Iceland in 2015, which features the booming sound of underground geothermal activity escaping to the surface through a small shaft. “Looking down into the darkness, there was a sense that a whole world existed in an unknown space beneath. The sound world of Aven is a journey through such an imagined environment.? The composition is driven by this sonic encounter, but enters the imagined worlds beneath through the instrumental material developed throughout the work. These melodic passages predominantly feature violin, which Bethan has played since childhood exploring traditional Scottish music, rock violin, free improvisation and classical studies. The field recordings used in Aven were made in Iceland during the Wildeye sound recording workshop with Chris Watson and Jez riley French, and in South Africa during the Sonic Mmabolela residency with Francisco Lopez and James Webb. Each of the recordings explore a world of sound beneath a surface, reflecting upon the initial recording environment at the geothermal site. In South Africa, an approaching storm was heralded by wind blowing through bushes in the savanna, underneath which was hidden a Soundfield microphone. A contact microphone on a fence in South Iceland revealed the tones of the wind contained inside the wires, and in an Icelandic nature reserve the wind was also captured by microphones buried underneath a layer of grass – a miniature world sheltered by the strands of dry straw.

Bethan Kellough (formerly Bethan Parkes) is a sound artist and composer. Her work spans across ambisonic composition, field recording, sound design and multichannel sound installation practices, drawing a focus on sonic spatial experience. Her works are designed to open out spaces with sound, exploring spatial aesthetics and the interactions between sonically and visually articulated spaces. The immersive sound-worlds she creates inhabit the boundaries between music and sound design, weaving together instrumental materials, sound design and ambisonic field recordings.

She holds a PhD in Sonic Arts from the University of Glasgow. In 2015 she joined the Touch Mentorship Programme.

Her works have been exhibited and performed internationally, including at Touch Conference, Los Angeles, USA; Gallery of Russian Art and Design, London, UK; Resonant Forms Festival, Los Angeles, USA; Borealis Festival, Bergen, Norway; Jardins Efemeros Festival, Viseu, Portugal; Spazio Bocciofila, Venice, Italy; The Global Composition International Conference, Dieburg, Germany; Symposium on Acoustic Ecology, University of Kent, UK; Sound Thought Festival, Glasgow, UK.

Reviews:

Rolling Stone (USA):

Top 20 Avant-Garde Albums of 2016

Los Angeles–based artist Bethan Kellough accompanies some fairly gorgeous field recordings of Earth – geothermal activity in Iceland, wind rushing through the bushes in a South African savanna – with a tasteful amount of her own violin. The blend of rushing wind with her cinematic sweeps, part documentary and part whimsical fiction, is sometimes magical and sometimes terrifying.

A Closer Listen (net):

Aven refers to that which is hidden, yet still is heard: underground shafts through which air reaches the surface. Fascinated by Iceland’s natural geothermal activity, Bethan Kellough recorded the subterranean rumbles and upper-level hisses, and augmented them with wind recordings made in Iceland and South Africa. Only the very trained ear will be able to distinguish the difference between South African wind and Icelandic wind (Savannah bush, strands of straw), but neither identification nor deception is her intention. This soundscape is inspired by the very nature of sound.

While field recordings are the lead story, the artist also plays violin. Her gentle strings allow her to shape the soundscape into a personal reflection. What do you hear in these sounds? she asks without words. What drama can be heard in rising rumbles and twists of wind? To escape through a shaft from an underground cave is to act out a myth, and Kellough provides just the right balance of darkness and light.

For the most part, the success of the strings is in their subtlety, but a few exceptions apply. When Kellough shifts from light drone to composed notes in “Vision?, the attention shifts from the earth to the artist, performing a pas de deux with the planet. Her sound design is exquisite, as she allows the growing rushes to battle and briefly overwhelm her own music. “Canopy? includes both violin and piano, challenging the listener to define which sound source is canopy and which is shade. Again the earth’s drones rush in to dominate the sound field, but this time, Kellough matches them with a rising volume of her own. Only in the aftermath does the wind subside, although it is more proper to say that the artist causes the sound of the wind to subside. Job may have rued the futility of chasing the wind, but at least in one sense, this sound artist has managed to capture it. [Richard Allen]

Norman Records (UK):

A marriage of untouched field recordings and arranged stringwork brings Bethan Kellough's Aven together. These tracks came into existence via captured sound from Iceland, a great spot to capture the audibly intense "geothermal activity" that goes on in the ground. By using violin alongside these sound discoveries, Kellough offers something both earthy and fantastical, taking the natural world's slice of life and developing new narratives. This CD for Touch includes a similar smelting of sound design and composed music for field recordings captured in South Africa.

Boomkat (UK):

Touch introduce a set of keen, new set of ears to the field with Bethan Kellough’s divine debut, Aven; offering a sweeping demonstration of her sensitivity towards spatial aesthetics, natural sounds, and string composition. Where Richard Skelton, Chris Watson and Anne Guthrie leave off, Bethan is subtly shaping up a gorgeous sound of her own. Definitely check this and keep an eye out for what may come!

Polyphonia (Poland):

Tym razem brytyjska kompozytorka prowadzi nas niby w głąb wyimaginowanego świata przyrody. Ale czy na pewno jest to przestrzeń wykreowana tylko w jej głowie?

Od razu odpowiem – że nie. Ponieważ Bethan Kellough przygotowując swoje utwory na płytę „Aven? sięgnęła po nagrania terenowe z Islandii i Republiki Południowej Afryki, które zresztą sama zarejestrowała w 2015 roku. Oprócz tego spoiwa, jakim jest tu field recording, Kellough przetwarza także brzmienie skrzypiec, po czym całość nasyca ambientową elektroniką.

Odnosząc się do nagrań terenowych to w obu przypadkach artystka uchwyciła wiatr: na Islandii mikrofon kontaktowy ukryła pod cienką warstwą trawy, zaś w RPA „złapała? silny powiem powietrza zwiastujący nadejście sztormu – tam mikrofon umieściła pośród krzaków porastających okoliczną sawannę. To, co jest charakterystyczne dla jej kompozycji, to to, że potrafi w nich balansować między ciszą a narastającą dynamiką, zachowując przy tym nieskrępowaną elegancję i lekkość. Chyba najlepiej to słychać w dwóch intrygującym nagraniach, czyli „Canopy? i „Low?.

Ondarock (Italy):

Da alcuni anni il marchio Touch non equivale più alla sola attività di label discografica – tra le più autorevoli degli ultimi trent’anni in materia di sperimentazione elettronica, ambient e drone – ma anche ad attività collaterali volte a promuovere e sostenere le ricerche più interessanti del settore. Ciò avviene principalmente attraverso conferenze, con la partecipazione di importanti artisti del roster, e mentorship volte a fornire un affiancamento tecnico e didattico alle giovani promesse che l’etichetta ritiene meritevoli di supporto.
A quest’ultimo programma ha preso parte, nel 2015, la compositrice e sound artist britannica Bethan Kellough, che ha catturato suoni in presa diretta nei suoi viaggi e residenze artistiche in Islanda e Sudafrica, al fianco di numi tutelati del field recording come Chris Watson e Francisco López.

Presentato e inciso pochi mesi fa nell’ambito della Touch Conference presso lo spazio South Of Sunset di Los Angeles, “Aven? rappresenta uno straordinario approdo nella contaminazione tra suono naturale, acustico e digitale.
Taluni artisti operano un contrasto più o meno netto tra le due dimensioni, mentre altri approcciano la polifonia dell’ambiente naturale con religioso rispetto, preservandone la ricchezza a scapito dell’impronta umana. La versatile Kellough si situa idealmente nel mezzo, armonizzando con estrema fluidità i moti d’acqua e vento con il suono gentile del suo violino – sovrainciso e riverberato sino a emulare le orchestre d’archi di Arvo Pärt –, in un dialogo di qualità e intensità sempre diverse dove realtà e artificio divengono una nuova istanza indissolubile.

Non sorprende che i primi pareri entusiastici siano stati quelli di Roly Porter e Paul Jebanasam: nelle poderose ondate elettroniche che attraversano “Vision? e “Low? risuonano tanto i moti astrali di "Third Law" quanto la realtà disgregata di "Continuum"; sono sferzate sparute e sfuggenti, e quindi ancor più efficaci, entro un grande quadro acustico che non forza mai la mano sulle modificazioni, generando come un minuscolo pianeta dall’equilibrio tormentato ma da ultimo incorruttibile.
Un gioiello di composizione contemporanea edito in sole 500 copie Cd, da avere e custodire come una rarità.

Pinkushion (France):

La nouvelle production de la série Touch Tone qui regroupe principalement les soundworks les plus remarquables du label Touch est celle de Bethan Kellough qui propose, à l’instar de ses prédécesseurs, une expérience sonore profonde qui marie les confins de la terre avec la légèreté des nuages, l’Islande avec l’Afrique du Sud où se trouvent réalisés les field-recordings de l’album lors des résidences d’artistes. Or il n’est pas question d’arrangements uniquement basés sur des enregistrements, puisque ces derniers se trouvent accompagnés du violon qui y ajoute de l’intensité mais aussi de l’émotion, relevant avec virtuosité le goût de la matière brute amassée par les micros qui constatent le vent, les sources d’eau, les confins de la terre. Les notes finissent par fondre avec l’environnement imperceptible, l’objet de convoitise et d’attention. Et c’est peut-être là que le travail compositionnel de la musicienne fait son effet, puisqu’elle arrive, par cette magie et ce mystère omniprésents dans ce court opus (28 minutes au total), à nous communiquer sa fascination pour ce qui l’entoure, aussi invisible soit-il. Les occasions spécifiques des enregistrements, le mixage, les réécritures, tout ceci devient fluide et translucide à l’écoute. Rare sont les albums comme Aven qui nous surprennent à susciter autant d’émotions avec aussi peu de gestes, si ce n’est celui de prendre son auditeur par la main, tout en oeuvrant à la fois dans les abîmes et les sommets.

dogrando (UK):

This is a short (28 minutes) but perfectly formed bit of intense atmospheric ambient. It's made mostly of Kellough's own droning string arrangements, field recordings (from Iceland and South Africa), and a bunch of processing. From the opening seconds you'd be forgiven for thinking this was going to be at the floaty end of the spectrum, but don't be deceived: this is a tough, muscular work, evoking not just the wonder of nature but also its danger, and the suddenness of its changes of mood. Melody is used sparingly, and is all the more effective for it. The production is superb (especially since it was apparently recorded live). If pushed for references, some of the effects remind me of Ricardo Donoso — particularly the one where a crescendo of static like an approaching shock-wave hits you with a bang leaving wisps of echoing strings and crackle in its wake — and it's no surprise to read that Francisco Lopez was involved in some of the field recordings, but overall this is refreshingly original (and the strings are better than Donoso's). A hugely accomplished debut.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Modern Classical / Ambient.

Sight and Sound (France):

L’artiste britannique explore les profondeurs de forces terrestres en suspens, où le moindre froissement est source de matière sonore, où chaque souffle est prétexte à l’évasion.

Avec Aven, Bethan Kellough tisse des liens entre des sons que l’on a oublié d’entendre et d’écouter. Armée de micros, qu’elle a posé en Islande et en Afrique lors de résidences, pour capter les ambiances et les mouvements du temps qui passe, Bethan Kellough brode des armatures à la fragilité nuageuse et aux tremblements sismiques contenus dans des ambiances en équilibre, où le vent s’immisce entre chaque note de son violon, ponctuation instrumentale à la beauté hantée.

Album suspendu aux lèvres de dieux disparus, Aven combine magistralement force et sensibilité, sound design et field recordings, agençant la nature dans le fracas de machine prêtes à s’habiller de draps soyeux, partageant les mouvements et les haltes sur des lieux sauvages à la sophistication rêveuse. A la croisée de Tim Hecker et de Lawrence English, à l’intersection de l’évanescent et du sublime, Bethan Kellough nous transporte autant qu’elle nous subjugue. Divin. [Roland Torres]

tinymixtapes (USA):

Aven, an album designed by sound engineer and composer Bethan Kellough, is a film you watch with your ears. It has no visual component, but it may as well be a film. Field recordings collected in Iceland and South Africa — of geothermal activity, rushes of wind in grass, the sun setting, birdsong, rippling water — provide the action. There are no words or narrative, but dynamic swells of the natural world produce their own pulses, the form of which Kellough then accentuates and articulates through live violin and piano performances of her own original compositions. Subtle string drones are blended into a vast soundscape that moves freely between turbulence and placidity.

Like elapsed footage of a flower unfolding, the five recordings on the album audibly magnify processes of opening and closing usually neither seen nor heard. The recordings represent the passing of time, in that they capture and aestheticize physical transformations produced by heat, pressure, and release. But they also produce distinctive registers of motion and sensation, allowing listeners to experience sonic and spatial dimensions inaccessible in ordinary life. “Everything sounds very different through a microphone,? said Kellough. “When I’m talking about ‘opening out’ spaces through sound, there is very much a sense of an imagined world.? In the world rendered by Aven, depth, scale, and containment all take on new meanings, less revealing the hidden than creating it. [Elizabeth Newton]

Against the Silence (Greece):

Η απόλυτη ησυχία γ??ω μας πα?αμένει ένα ιδεατό όνει?ο. Ένας άγνωστος κόσμος μας πε?ιβάλλει αφήνοντας τις αισθήσεις μας πα?αδομένες απέναντι του. Η Bethan Kellough στον π?ώτο της δίσκο στην Touch αφήνει τα πάντα εκεί έξω να εισχω?ήσουν στη μουσική της. Για αυτό το λόγο στα π?ώτα λεπτά της εικοσιοκτάλεπτης σ?νθεσης της η ένταση είναι χαμηλά και κυ?ια?χο?ν οι φυσικοί εξωτε?ικοί ήχοι οι οποίοι έχουν ηχογ?αφηθεί και αναμειχθεί με χαμηλότονους ηλεκτ?ονικο?ς ήχους από την ίδια. Οτιδήποτε κι αν ακουστεί απ’έξω εντάσσεται αμέσως στην ίδια τη σ?νθεση. Σαν μια ?ουφήχτ?α να τ?αβάει τα πάντα δημιου?γώντας μια νέα σ?νθεση.

Κάπου στο έβδομο λεπτό υπά?χει μια λυ?ική έκ?ηξη, όλα αλλάζουν και εκεί που το Aven ήταν πόλος έλξης εξωτε?ικών ήχων, γίνεται ένας εκβολέας του κάθε στοιχείου που χώνεψε εντός του. Συναισθήματα, σκέψεις, αναμνήσεις ?έουν π?ος τα έξω και φέ?ουν τα χα?ακτη?ιστικά τ@ εκάστοτε ακ?οατ@. Το Aven αποτελεί την ηχογ?άφηση μιας δικής της ζωντανής εμφάνισης και θυμίζει έντονα μια ανάσα… εισπνοή, εκπνοή, παλμοί… την κάθε ανάσα που ασυνείδητα και ανάλαφ?α μας κ?ατά στη ζωή.

The New Noise (Italy):

Come nasce questo breve Aven? Bethan Kellough ha preso parte a un workshop di Chris Watson, il quale, oltre a essere un ex Cabaret Voltaire, è uno dei punti di riferimento per chi si occupa di field recordings. Successivamente è stata a un’iniziativa simile di Francisco López, altro sound artist fondamentale in quest’ambito. Con Watson Bethan era in Islanda, infatti il disco inizia con i suoni catturati all’interno di una spaccatura della superficie dalla quale usciva del vapore. Con López è stata in Sud Africa, dove ha sistemato i suoi microfoni in giro subito prima di un temporale. L’energia del sottosuolo e del vento, a livello sonoro, dà spazialità, fisicità e grande potenza all’album, mentre a livello narrativo ci avverte della forza della Natura. Kellough non si accontenta e su quest’elemento “concreto? ricama con archi, piano e interventi digitali, rendendo il tutto (forse un po’ troppo) drammatico e solenne, tanto che sembra di stare al cinema. La bellezza di Aven è possibile proprio grazie alla poliedricità di Bethan, che ha sfruttato al meglio le registrazioni che ha raccolto, restituendoci la grandiosità delle sue sorgenti sonore senza riproporle in modo pedissequo o aggiungendo giusto qualche drone per dare continuità all’insieme, perché ha anche avuto il coraggio di mettersi in gioco come compositrice.

Non credo sia un caso che Paul Jebanasam abbia apprezzato pubblicamente questo disco, come non è affatto strano che gliel’abbia consigliato Roly Porter. Mi sa insomma che Touch ha scoperto un nuovo talento. E lo sta pure coltivando, come fa con quello di Claire M Singer.

VITAL (Netherlands):

Sound artist and field recorded Bethan Kellough presents a live recording (at Volume, Los Angeles, 30th April this year) build from locational recordings made in South Africa and Iceland.

Geothermal activities escape through small openings in the earth's surface; the opening offering a view upon a world below, shrouded in darkness. It's this unknown and unfathomable space Kellough excavates and projects outward as a journey through an imagined (not: imaginary) environment; not unlike an aural Jules Verne, of sorts.

The sounds of boiling hot darkness are met with recordings of winds blowing through South African bushes; blissful and cooling. Open too. Kellough cleverly manages to mix and master both sentiments in an ambisonic blend with her own instrumental lines otherworldly narrative that offers as many factual and actual clues as it presents new and hitherto unknown sonic clashes and textures. [SSK]

Chain D.L.K. (USA):

The first stone for this enchanting output got laid on the occasion of Touch Conference at South of Sunset area in Los Angeles, one of the appreciated meeting that Touch recently organized to focus listeners' and followers' to some branches of sonic research (including of course the one by the artists in its rosters, some of whom took part in these events in order to help newbies to learn some techniques as well). British composer and sound artist Bethan Kellough (formerly known as Bethan Parkes) attended the one I mentioned above after having joined the touch Mentorship Programme in 2015. The "concrete" sounds you'll listen in this precious sonic gemstone got collected during some journeys in Iceland and South Africa together with some big names of this branch of sonic exploration. She grabbed the noises coming out of a fence in South Iceland by means of a contact microphone in the days when Chris Watson and Jez Riley French were holding the Wildeye sound recording workshop, while the ones she grabbed during the Sonic Mmabolela residency with other two big names of this branch of sonic explorations like Francisco Lopez and James Webb got taken by a Soundfield microphone hidden under some bushes in the Savannah while a storm was approaching. What makes the listening actually engaging are the delicate and powerfully evocative musical insertions by Bethan: this inventive woman managed to highlight the mysterious power of nature by some breathtaking melodic lines she mostly made by the violin she played since her childhood, when she started getting involved in Scottish traditional music, classical music, rock violin and free improvisation. The melodic parts got added on the occasion of the conference I mentioned above, and that guided choice managed to turn the sonic canvas of field recordings in two special natural sets into a powerful musical poem. Highly recommended listening experience.



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Bethan Kellough - Aven


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Track 4:  Canopy (extract)



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