Review: Staubitz and Waterhouse – Alone Together (self-released, Mar 16)

As more and more of the U.S. locks down in response to COVID-19 with business closures and stay-at-home orders, artists whose work examines the mundane and the domestic become more important than ever. The new duo of Rhode Island improvisers and sound artists Mary Staubitz and Russ Waterhouse has already provided me with an early favorite of the year with their self-titled lathe on Gertrude Tapes, and several digital-only tracks have also been released on their newly created Bandcamp page, notably the 22-minute “Alone Together.” The sound materials for this piece were gathered in Virginia and Rhode Island in 2019 and were assembled just before its release. Consistent with the curiously warbled workaday of the 7″ and the blurred pastel colors of the cover artwork, “Alone Together” presents a familiar yet slightly uncanny vignette of reality. The field recordings sound largely unprocessed, but at every moment there seems to be something that just isn’t quite right: the clinical isolation of the bug chatter that begins the piece; how surrounding the peculiar drone to which everything strips down are barely audible clunks and vibrations that give just the faintest sense of physical place; the way the sound objects in the subdued remainder of the track seem to be organized in slightly the wrong order, like puzzle pieces that sort of, but don’t completely fit together; the startling entry of the amplified nature sounds that conclude the piece. The credits of “Alone Together” also reveal an interesting aspect of its creation; Staubitz captured all of the recordings while Waterhouse performed the edit. This is an interesting dynamic for a duo, and I’m excited to see that they’re experimenting with various approaches (they also have a short live performance available for stream and download).