Review: Max Hamel – Sounds of Summer: Field Recordings of Solar Electronics (Refulgent Sepulchre, Jan 23)

There are a few easily replicable sound events with which I am hopelessly obsessed. One of the easiest to conjure is the pressurized, astringent hiss of liquid trapped between a drip coffee pot and its heating element, a simultaneously violent and meditative emission that pairs well with the mundanity of an aimless afternoon. Side A of Max Hamel’s Sounds of Summer harnesses textures of a similar character; generated with room recordings of custom-made automated solar-powered circuit machines that produce volatile, ear-wracking noise based on the subtle fluctuations of sunlight they receive, the tape embraces the blurring of preparation and passivity that has resulted in so many compelling releases in recent years. Like Yan Jun’s feedback systems or Henry Collins’s “prepared rain” percussion assemblages, Hamel’s complex setup exists inexorably within the space in which it is placed, in a way simply demonstrating another method of environmental appreciation—one with an additional and conspicuous degree of abstraction compared to straightforward microphone capture. But in another sense, Hamel is simply an observer, documenting the soundscape of the day with an ear for both “pure” as well as adapted experience, and from this perspective even the most piercing tones produced by the circuitry reside in the same dimension as distant conversations, nearby traffic, and the breeze drifting in through the open window. Whether sharp, caustic fizz-garbles or crisp, sterile sine tones and clinking metal are the central elements, these are undeniably the sounds of summer.

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