The still-stirring Ash International [R.I.P.] label commemorates the 50th anniversary of drag racing with a sonic tribute to the sport. Paul Williams set up his sensitive microphones at Santa Pod, an English raceway, and captured all the sound and spectacle of a day at the races. Announcers drone over the roar of the engines; spectators whistle, cheer, and mutter amongst themselves; dragsters guzzle their nitromethane lunches and leap from the starting line like thunderclaps. If not quite as viscerally gratifying as being there, the superb recordings do convey the excitement of the event.
Williams' fine liner notes explain the multiple levels on which SANTA POD functions. First and foremost, the CD is an audio document of a real place, presented in real time. Since drag racing is a modern phenomenon--and a popular one, at that--SANTA POD preserves a technological and sociological moment in history. Williams' recordings also reflect Santa Pod's acoustic peculiarities, and the discrepancies between the flat PA delivery and the racers' ear-bending Doppler shifts would be of great interest to those with a bent for spatial sound-science. Finally, those mighty "thundering gods" of the racetrack promise--and certainly deliver--the hair-raising, spine-snapping noise thrills audio-masochists and perverse DJs crave.