Review: HDL – Whales Have Hind Legs (Sacred Tapes, Jul 30)

Whales Have Hind Legs, a new C20 from multi-disciplinary artist Hannah Dargavel-Leafe (HDL), collects tracks made using recordings of an old whaling station in Iceland. These recordings are largely unmanipulated aside from layering and sequencing, and because of this Whales Have Hind Legs is able to paint a vivid picture of this mysterious location. The tape has much less whale sounds than you’d expect, instead focusing on the mechanical processes and metallic creaking of the station, though the atmosphere created definitely has an aquatic tinge to it. The unaffected sounds are quiet, modest, even thin, on their own, but together they conjure images of hulking, rusted structures and murky ocean skies and waters, and somehow still retain that sparseness. HDL’s works are cryptic, immersive, slightly unsettling, and weirdly addictive; I’ve listened to this short tape about four times since discovering it yesterday. Dargavel-Leafe has a sound installation at Maskinhuset in Sweden and is releasing an LP on Calling Cards Publishing later this year.

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