Review: Mute Frequencies – Echo Chamber (self-released, Aug 30)

Conceptually speaking, London sound art collective Mute Frequencies’ first release firmly situates itself in reference and response to “times of pandemic,” but unlike many other creative works I’ve seen, heard, read, etc. with the same topic, Echo Chamber has a timelessness that will endure long beyond the times in which life is still significantly changed, or even when those changes either last and become old hat or disappear into faded memory. The (re)new(ed) poetic interest in daily tedium recently embraced by artists of all kinds has delved even further into the unutterable truths hidden within our routines than we all already have in the process of experiencing the paring of our lives down to very nearly them and them alone, and this gorgeous 15-minute piece is just one of many artful odes to domestic mundanity that wordless remind us that the banal is not to be taken for granted; not necessarily appreciated, or derided, or avoided, but simply not neglected. According to the trio of Ilia Rogatchevski and Laura and Kitsuné Rogatchevskaia, the more abrasive textures—seething emf clouds and cranked-up radios set to dead air—“periodically interrupt” what often presents as tranquility in an effort to “remind the listener of the unfortunate global context” that inspired the music, but to me, admittedly someone who is quite partial to “abrasive textures,” the intrusions play several important roles in supporting the familiar sounds of bird chirps, babbling children, and playground equipment in the breeze, none of which turn out to be so negative. Beyond their “periodic” nature providing a loose, abstract sort of rhythm to glom on to, and their sharper edges engaging in compelling contrast-interplay with the outdoor field recordings, the sudden surges and swarms of electronics act as up-close, almost confrontational channels through which to experience the overall soundscape, much more tactile and therefore graspable than their ephemeral partners. I’m sure everyone will find their way to their own meaning via these conspicuous conduits, but the purpose behind Mute Frequencies’ work here will inevitably surface, somehow, in any analysis; the eminent neutrality of their auditory lens leaves room for subjective interpretation, even as its very existence affirms the impossibility of these base, innate things ever being fully explained. Round and round we go.

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