Review: Áine O’Dwyer – Daedalus Airs (self-released, Apr 27)

2018’s superb and affecting Green Ways with partner Graham Lambkin marked a significant creative shift in the work of Irish sound artist Áine O’Dwyer. Though prior releases saw her testing the limits of organ drones and other instruments within lush environments, successive projects reveal an unmistakable interest in public spaces, audience participation, and humanism. Early this year, O’Dwyer revealed she was gathering material for something new; she “engaged in street talk all day yesterday in Bristol suburbia” in preparation for live performances in April, which presumably had to be canceled. But we were still graced with something new: Daedalus Airs documents nine excerpts from an “audio visual performance installation” located at an art studio in Athens, Greece. Listeners who witnessed any of the performances by Lambkin and O’Dwyer (whether in person or via Green Ways) will find familiarity in the way the proceedings are captured; the generous recording field places the artist and her audience on equal footing. “Live Air,” the segment that concludes part one of the release, is especially exemplary of this; the space feels strictly defined and yet still distorted as the distant organ lament is marred by the creak and squeak of moving hinges. Things get even more intense in “Ella Capella,” in which a closely recorded and rather startling gush of water immediately invades, and during the rest we’re left to imagine what’s going on as O’Dwyer honks horns, rolls giant metal machinery, and whimsically vocalizes, all atop a persistent keyboard tone. One certainly misses out on a great deal of the true experience of an installation by not being physically present, but there’s more than enough “physical presence” in this wonderful recording for it to be pretty close. Plus, a dog’s barking once again plays a simultaneously grating and meaningful role. What’s not to love?