Floater (2022)

Over the months of June / July we had to move from our home of the last 5 years (Kalonga). Noise restrictions at our new home won’t allow me to freely record live sounds, so I spent the final weeks alone in the empty Kalonga, saying goodbye and hastily recording various live sounds that I could edit into shape later.

Nestled into its bush setting atop a valley, Kalonga had been our sanctuary from the cultural abrasions of the ‘outside’ world, and a safe container for the turbulences of our private world. The tranquil environment there enabled me to manage my autistic sensitivities through periods of severe breakdown, burnout and grief, and allowed me the sense of open space & privacy I need for baseline functioning. I found it especially difficult to leave the place, knowing that our new environment does not offer the same refuge.  It certainly wasn’t our decision or choice to move, but by decree of The Owner, whose choice it was to reclaim his house. Nor did we have any luxury of choice in new accommodation – thankfully a house was available in our area and we took what we could. Such are the travails of rental serfdom.

Similar to my musical process in moving from Eggs & Bacon Bay to Kalonga in 2017 (resulting in these three albums), these last recording sessions had an element of ritual mourning in their execution.  A lot of life happens in five years, and with our particular challenges it feels more like twenty years. Many events happened at Kalonga that have altered the shape of my existence permanently, for better and for worse.

As I made my final recordings in the empty Kalonga, I edited some of the material into a few finished pieces, and so far three albums have emerged – Floater, Kalonga and Displacement Ritual. No doubt more will follow as I sift through the raw data I collected.  I don’t think of these albums as a trilogy, but they are of a family, and have grown from the same event.

The ‘first of the last’ recordings, Floater is a single half-hour track entitled Ashes / Densities – an explorative, slo-fi meditative drift of improvised sound collage, recorded one rainy afternoon at Kalonga, after we first emptied the house. Spacious sounds of rain outside, watery bloops, found percussion (such as playing the wooden body of a centenarian piano with felt mallets), and various other noises I bent into & out of shape later that night in the lab.  The underlying synth drone first appeared on Melancholia (which, I just realised, is the first album I recorded at Kalonga immediately after we moved in – something of a circle completed there…).

My creative process for this album (as with many others) was in the spirit of deliberate accident and creative synchronicity, of chance operation and chaos magick. Each layer of sound (percussion, bass, slide guitar etc) was recorded independently of the other tracks. My available time was tight, so I had to work quickly & spontaneously. I simply hit record and improvised each time with whatever impulse arose. There was plenty of incidental room noise, stumblings & ‘creative mess’, but I find these ‘accidents’ (textural events) often yield new possibilities in the editing process.

The tracks were then laid randomly over each other in order to observe how the disconnected sounds intersect, akin to a cut-up approach. To me it’s a kind of jazz thinking, inviting elements of deconstruction, space, intersection and surprise. The new soundshapes created in this spontaneous way by the raw source material then informed my editing & sculpting later. 

The track’s title Ashes / Densities suggests the particulate nature of change – the dissolution of matter / molecules and their reorganisation into some other temporary point in spacetime. ‘Ashes’ as funereal symbol, the dust of the irretrievable past, life dissolved in fire; ‘Densities’ as with the misty water molecules that surrounded the house as I recorded that day, suspended in the atmosphere as fine particles, or cohering as raindrops to descend and dissolve into rivulets of flowing water, the larger densities….

The album’s cover image is a photo I took of the Huon River, near our new home, and gave rise to the album’s Floater title, which contains a few layers of suggested meaning. More obviously, it references the music’s spacious ‘floating’ ambience, the various liquid densities of cloud, sky & water, and the theme of reflection. In a more self-deprecating vein, (‘floater’ as slang for that which refuses a toilet’s flush), the fecal shape of the cloud signifies my initial feeling that this recording (made in a state of turmoil) was a turd that could not be polished….although, after a revised edit, and in a revised state of mind, I think the piece may have redeemed itself a little.