4 urban landscapes |cs162








































Four aural images of Cork, Ireland. I tend to like field recordings. In fact, I find myself wondering sometimes: Could there be a field recording I wouldn't like, at least a bit? Well, yes. One way to get there is to introduce echoes, especially on captured voices, as though it's making them somehow more evocative. No. There's a dull sheen in play as well, almost as though the mics aren't paying close attention. Strange. The third piece, "Panarmaic" [sic], dispenses with the echoes and fares better but the fourth, "The Stone Cutter" inches too close to the travelogue for comfort and the inserted poem recitation is far too precious. Just Outside (Brian Olewnick)

Cork guitarist Mark O’Leary has been dabbing in field recording and electroacoustics lately. 4 Urban Landscapes features for 10-minute tracks showcasing the city of Cork, Ireland. O’Leary made fields recordings that he later treated to a certain extent. For instance, “Shandon” takes us to significant lcations in Cork, a condensed guided tour, where the church’s resonance is carried to the other locations. The newspaper criors in “Echo” provide a leitmotiv for a set of interactions between the city and its inhabitants (a subtle and successful work). In “The Stone Cutter,” the sounds of a stonecutter’s shop are heavily treated to form a beat and atmospehre from a bygone era. A quiet, peaceful record, a sound poem to a city clearly running in O’Leary’s veins. François Couture (Monsieur Délire)

Back to the Creative Sources pile again this evening, and a CD of four tracks formed from field recordings made around the Irish city of Cork, a place I hope to visit soon. The CD, named 4 Urban Landscapes is by the Cork based sound artist Mark O’Leary. In the sleevenotes, O’Leary states that “what I am trying to portray has been animated by audio processing to give an ambient dimension to the sound images” Hmm… Let’s be upfront and honest, I really found this album hard to sit and listen to. While the source material here is on paper right up my street, the sounds of the city in the evening, cars running over rainswept streets, footsteps, distant voices, that featureless gentle “hum” that pervades every otherwise quiet city if you stop and really listen carefully, the treatment of the recordings isn’t to my taste at all. The problem here then, is not so much the original sounds themselves (though an overlaid spoken poem on The Stone Cutter, the last track here doesn’t sit well with me) but the methods used in the composition, the primary annoyances to me being a persistent use of slow echoey reverb, particularly on spoken voices, recurring, obvious sounds that keep being dropped into the pieces so as to make them feel even more unnatural than the reverb makes them feel already, and a general sense of everything being filtered and blended into one big aural smoothie. It is of course a personal preference of mine that I think I share with quite a few others that good creative field recording is usually best left raw. While layering and collage is often very successful, direct processing of the sounds themselves is only on occasions interesting to my ears. Field recording is very easy to do, as th emany CDs released documenting such work show us, but it is very difficult to do well, and too easy to take an uninteresting field recording and try and make it more intriguing by processing it a lot. However In the case of these particular pieces I actually think that the original recordings might have been relatively interesting in their original state and the way they have been blurred by the ever-present use of decaying echo destroys what may have been there. The second track Echo is particularly grating. (sorry to be so harsh but I really did struggle with this one) As fuzzy city sounds drift by in a grey, processed manner in the background a man’s voice, shouting “Echo!” in a resonant tunnel, a bit like we all did as children appears, and is heartlessly subjected to further decaying echo. The thing is, it then keeps repeating, over and over, not as a loop as such, but as a recurring section of the music, until quite frankly it really annoyed me. The final track, the aforementioned The Stone Cutter sees the field recordings treated further until all that remains is a grey Enoesque hum, the like of which was popular in the late nineties Dark Ambient movement. Dripping water sounds and the tapping of chisels on stone also appear, but the track’s central element is the poem, read by a vaguely androgynous, youthful voice but treated to the echo process so much that the words are very hard to make out. O’Leary then prints the words on the CD sleeve. This piece is just a million miles removed from the area of field recording work that interests me. The music here then did not impress a great deal on me. To some degree this is a taste thing. CDs that veer towards a New Age vibe in general put me off, and in some aspects that is what I sensed here, despite the urban nature of the source material. I cannot help but feel that the way the recordings have been treated and arranged here are very obvious and unoriginal though, and while perhaps the added poetry reading does add something unusual it does not add anything of value. Richard Pinnell (The Watchful Ear)

O’Leary residing in Cork City of Eire presents a report of documented environmental audio connected with his own city. His snap remark on the absence of listening to the urban sounds in our modern city culture reflects how much is lost in the daily life without conscious choices and awareness of what’s out there in the audiosphere.
Mark gives an outlay of field recorded induced ambience that’s foremostly a pleasure to listen to. Whimsical and unforeseeable and unpredictable as the city life itself. Hubert Napiorski (Felthat)

Better known as a guitarist, O’Leary presents a different outlook on the (admittedly worn-out) subject of field recordings in a metropolitan environment, the Irish city of Cork in this case. The four chapters comprise classic recipes – largely based on church bells, traffic noise, car engines, people’s voices – in which we can also trace a meditative component obtained by recording at night, either in certain parts of the town or in specific panoramic areas. In this sense the record offers more or less what expected, a comprehensive halo of municipal activity that O’Leary decided, as an artistic choice, to process with digital delay and lengthy reverb to augment the “ambient dimension” of the sounds. Two episodes might even be remembered for a while: “Echo”, constructed on the echoes of the so-called “echo boys” (don’t get confused), namely the men who sell newspapers in the streets, and “The Stone Cutter”, which wraps with a dark drone the rhythmical hammering of an artisan and a poem written by the record’s creator, recited by a Turkish girl named Gokcen Dilek Acay. Not really a creative testimonial per se, 4 Urban Landscapes is comparable to the soundtrack to an installation: a nice but not extraordinary listen, exactly like about 98% of the releases dealing with the same topics. Massimo Ricci (Touching Extremes)