Chris Watson

Outside the Circle of Fire

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AllMusic Review by

Former Cabaret Voltaire and Hafler Trio member Chris Watson's second release of unadulterated field recordings continues to demonstrate the similarities between natural soundscapes and contemporary electronica with his second solo release on Touch. The selections here are all amazing, from the opening sounds of a purring cheetah (whose picture adorns the inside booklet) to the stunning "Massed Knot Roost," created by 20,000 birds and layering not only the songs but the beating wings as various parts of the flock take off. Watson placed two omnidirectional microphones inside a zebra carcass to create the binaural recording of vultures feeding on "Vultures." "The Capercallie Display" is a remarkable abstract alternation of clicks and flutters, comparable to the work of many electronic microsound artists, but still with the natural woodland birdsong in the background. "The Deathwatch Beetles" are another close-up examination of a sound world that most listeners would otherwise never get to hear. Sprinkled between the more extended pieces are short snapshots, such as the lioness protecting her cubs, a whale breaching, and a wood pigeon. Watson also includes technical information on his recording setup and short blurbs for each piece, providing the listener with additional details about the soundscapes. Despite the referential nature of these tracks, Watson is not providing straight, new-agey environmental recordings. A number of contemporary sound artists, such as Francisco Lopez, John Hudak, Eric La Casa, and Michael Northam, take their inspiration from sounds in nature, and Watson's work is in the same vein, although his recordings are relatively unprocessed compared to the artists mentioned above.

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