Peter Cusack

Baikal Ice (Spring 2003)

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File this one alongside Cusack's Where Is the Green Parrot? and My Favorite London Sounds. Recorded on location during the spring of 2003, at the crucial time when the ice over Lake Baikal fragments into thousands of icicles, Baikal Ice is an audio diary of untampered field recordings. The region is of course breathtakingly beautiful -- something Cusack's overwater recordings actually convey. You can hear the vast spaces, the majesty of the frozen lake, and the pittoresque of the location through the wind, bird, and human sounds, but also through the acoustical features of the recordings. We can hear unusual bird songs, children playing with an outdoor PA system, Cusack in his daily routine (mediated by his very dry sense of humor). The recordings are crystal clear and, if they don't have the kind of suggestive poetry found in Chris Watson's pieces, they do create their own stories and convey a sense of here and now. But the main feature of this album is Cusack's underwater recordings of icicles floating in compact groups and "falling" into free water. A symphony of delicate clinks drifting in every direction, these recordings disclose a unique soundworld. This reviewer would not be surprised if a compilation album of remixes/reworkings based on these recordings surfaced soon. But as fascinating Cusack's find may be, Baikal Ice remains a bit too much of an audio postcard to have a lasting impact on the listener.

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