Tuesday 22 July 2008

Nurse with Wound @ London Fields Lido (Wet Sounds) 19/07/08

Sound affects you differently in the water. Things seem more distant; more tinny and echoed, but also more immediate. Underwater, things sound more watery. Which sounds obvious but is strange if you consider that water is a tangible thing and sound is not, and the one shouldn’t really be able to take on characteristics of the other. But this wateriness of sound is really just descriptive of the way in which we are aware of being in an element other than our own. The curious mixture of muffled distance and interiority with which sound reaches us underwater is our awareness of the element across which it has travelled; and of our being physically immersed within that element. Nurse with Wound’s set was perfectly suited to this slow, strange and dense sort of atmosphere. Swells of enveloping resonances, deep creaking pulses, indistinct strains of a lilting French tone suffused and surrounded; ethereal yet wierdly omnipresent. Shaking a rattle into a microphone struck you as a series of disappearing clicks, like an invisible shoal of tiny darting fishes. And it was the less earthly higher-end frequencies that seemed to filter through best: sounds that were muffled and confused above surface hit you with a strange clarity underwater – through the skin and in the stomach. Swimming in water that carries an audible dimension is immensely pleasurable. Noise surrounds you physically. It is both highly individualising as you are wholly immersed in your own senses without the possibility of communication, and extensive as it carries your awareness out across the expanses of your environment. Your physical processes interrupt as your breath becomes bubbles and the continuity of sound is continually broken by the necessity of coming up for air. The disparity was heightened by the unsociable July weather. To keep diving deep was by far the best way to keep warm and each time you surfaced you were assailed by a harsh wind that cancelled out the sunshine and, creeping ominously up one side of the sky, an oppressive sheet of grey cloud. Fortunately, that also meant that the lido was empty enough to swim around in. Exploring sound through a co-ordinated fluid, weightless movement. I suspect that it was rather like being in the womb. Or like being some kind of giant marine mammal: a blue whale picking up other whale song. Or maybe a giant squid. A sense of experimentation – of a new experience and way of doing things made for a collective triumphancy at what would have always been a great gig anyway, and at the end of the set Steve Stapleton listened to feedback from the small gathering of stoic listeners and thanked us for being their guinea pigs and we all clapped like seals. On the way home we stopped for fish and chips, and when we stepped outside again the bleak grey clouds had flushed pink.

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