Chris Watson - Weather Report

CD - 54:02 - 3 Tracks + full download

Track Listing:

1. Ol-Oolo-lo
2. The Lapaich
3. Vatnajökull

The weather has created and shaped all our habitats. Clearly it also has a profound and dynamic effect upon our lives and that of other animals. The three locations featured here all have moods and characters which are made tangible by the elements, and these periodic events are represented within by a form of time compression.

This is Chris's first foray into composition using his location recordings of wildlife and habitats - previously he has been concerned with describing and revealing the special atmosphere of a place by site specific, untreated location recordings. For the first time here he constructs collages of sounds, which evolve from a series of recordings made at the specific locations over varying periods of time.

Ol-Olool-O -18' 00"
A fourteen hour drama in Kenya's Masai Mara from 0500h - 1900h on Thursday 17th Oct. 2002

The Lapaich -18' 00"
The music of a Scottish highland glen through autumn and into winter during the four months of September to December

Vatnajkull -18' 00"
The 10,000 year climatic journey of ice formed deep within this Icelandic glacier and it's lingering flow into the Norwegian Sea.

Chris has released two previous solo albums for Touch, Outside the Circle of Fire [1998] and Stepping into the Dark [1996], as well as contributions for samplers and compilations for Ash International. His work was also used as source material for the compilation Star Switch On [2002], with contributions from AER, Biosphere, Fennesz, Hazard, Philip Jeck & Mika Vainio, as well as two tracks from Chris himself.

Chris is possibly best known for his sound recordings for BBC TV, particularly the "Life of..." series written and hosted by Sir David Attenborough. But his preferred media are cds and the radio. He has presented several programmes; "A Small Slice of Tranquillity", "NightTime is the Right Time", "Sound Advice" and "Tyneside Dawn", all broadcast on BBC Radio 4. His work has been described as "the freakiest all natural techno disc ever" by City Newspaper [USA].

Chris was previously a member of the popular beat trio Cabaret Voltaire.

As Sasha Frere-Jones wrote in Time Out, New York, in 1999: "Listen to your world. It may be more interesting than all the things you buy to escape from it."

The Sound Projector (UK):

On his most ambitious work to date, Chris Watson takes the raw materials of his documentary recordings and goes one step further, by assembling and layering related recordings together in these three, powerful, 18-minute suites. This CD creates a profound, almost-panoramic experience thereby, surveying in sound the geophysical state of the globe today. First comes ‘Ol-Olool-O’, a collection of recordings brought back from Africa. We have the usual vivid recordings of animals, people, weather, and the sundry activity of scattered places, but sequenced together in ways that we couldn’t normally hear. Things are up close, then suddenly distant; several related sound events happen simultaneously, and do it in full stereo too. As though we were a ‘privileged’ ear moving freely through the wonders of the world and gathering in sensory information in abundance. Dans la nuit Africaine, la vie bouillonne et palpite. Here we enter the cauldron of primordial soup, communing with life in all its diverse and wondrous forms. Everything is bound in by the dramatic weather conditions, most noticeably the gathering storms whose darkening skies are all but visible, so utterly present are the sound recordings of it. Around index point 6:00, the lion’s roar ushers in the thunderstorm; it’s but one of many underplayed juxtapositions, coincidences and confluences of sound events that make this work all the stronger. 14 hours of life in the Masai Mara condensed into 18 minutes; without a doubt this track alone qualifies as the aural equivalent to Peter Kubelka’s famous micro-structured single-frame based film, Unsere Afrikareise (Our Trip to Africa).

‘The Laipach’ is a hymn to wind and water, gathered from the ‘music of a Scottish highland glen’ over a four-month period. The layered sounds are all totally in sympathy with each other, and with nature, bringing home the roaring energy of these waters. Clean air and clean waters are the abiding impression in this corner of an environmental paradise. The ‘mixage’ and editing technique again brings impossible, miraculous events to life...birdsong audible over the top of roaring waters. The drama of this work is, at times, almost terrifying; the implacable and awesome powers of nature are uncovered, and with great clarity.

‘Vatnajökull’ is the recording of ice floes from an Icelandic glacier, as it flows into the Norwegian sea. Here’s the most ‘alien’ sounds on the entire disc, mainly because they’re so unfamiliar; once again our privileged ear is witness to things we don’t normally encounter. A rare event; strange groaning, cracking and heaving over a constant hissing sound. It’s not overstating the case to say you can feel the physical properties of this huge mass of icy matter, its considerable volume amply conveyed and expressed by the in-depth, precise sound recording. A deep and mysterious experience will be thine, just through listening. The most eerie aspect of it is the strange ‘singing’ events which occur throughout, especially by the end of the piece when we’re tossing about on the ocean and an unidentifiable spectral singing hovers over the surface of the sea, causing you to believe in sirens.

With this exceptionally important release, Chris Watson confirms his unassailable position as one of the greatest sound artists alive in the world today. Clearly a man who so deeply loves our home planet that, like a latter-day 19th century explorer, he will go to tremendous lengths to seek out and bear witness to its most outlandish beauties, and bring back the materials necessary to assemble this - a detailed, living portrait of our planet’s weather, its life and eco-systems, its geography. The music he makes is always the result of a lengthy, painstaking process, one that involves travelling, listening, looking and learning, and a deep sensitivity to the mysteries of terra firma. His work benefits one hundredfold from this new compressed and layered, impressionistic story-telling approach; never has it sounded so utterly compelling, bringing the magic to life in your living room. A truly essential purchase. [Ed Pinsent]

Outside (USA):

FOR AS LONG AS recording equipment has existed, we’ve been pointing it at hippos, shoving it down anthills, and dropping it into the sea—to learn more about animal behavior, document changes in ecosystems, or just freak out at the crazy sounds nature makes. Recent strides in digital-audio technology and the availability of smaller and more sensitive microphones have made it possible to probe further down the food chain, where sound plays just as important a role in organizing the lives of species as it does among the birds, bees, coyotes, and rhinoceri. They’ve also enabled conventional musicians to tap into the compositional potential of the natural world. Presenting 50 years of field recording’s greatest hits.

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Chris Watson - Weather Report

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Track 3:  Vatnajokull

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