Review: A. F. Jones – harborside (self-released, Feb 5)

Field recordists often use latitude and longitude coordinates as titles for their pieces, and as listeners we trust that those coordinates point to the actual location where the recordings were made. But at the same time, it doesn’t really matter if they do or not. The role of a phonographer is hardly ever to create a comprehensive auditory portrayal of their environment; much more frequently, they aim to provide a particular perspective on a sonic event or series of events, and that particularity is inherently guaranteed by the observer’s uniqueness as an individual—and, of course, can be supplemented by unconventional techniques or post-capture synthesis. I don’t have any doubt that the coordinates given for A. F. Jones’ release harborside are accurate (according to Google Maps, the precise location is quite close to the artist’s home base of Tracyton, WA, just east of Seattle), but his careful presentation of both on-site recordings and interactive synthesis transcends simple documentation or representation—when listening to “47°33’41.3″N | 122°37’31.7″W,” we aren’t transported to that quaint dock in Bremerton, but instead to a singular soundscape that integrates space, tension, and immersion with the location’s specific quirks. Swells of excited conversations, hypnotic drones, and windswept rustle rush in and out just like the waves that persistently lap at the shore, constructing a balance of meditative headspace and human unpredictability in a similar vein as Ludwig Berger’s Cargo. Meticulously composed and paced, harborside is one of the most engaging field recording compositions I’ve heard in a long time.

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