Monday, March 19, 2018
Cassette Review: Nick Hoffman "Salamander" (Notice Recordings)
Edition of 100 // https://noticerecordings.bandcamp.com/album/salamander //
"Salamander" begins with a buzzing as if a swarm of bees is coming after us. I've seen "My Girl" so I am being cautious. This becomes a somewhat hollow sound of soft winds on the second track. It's interesting because it has the feel as if the sound is being generated somehow by an instrument rather than a field recording but I've grown used to people seemingly walking around while recording that it should feel like that but it doesn't. The sound also takes on this tone which begins to come through in waves but it's ever so slight and really is best experienced through headphones.
The deep, distorted sounding wind comes through now. This hasn't ever really sounded like a field recording to me but rather something someone would have to generate themselves somehow but I have no idea how. If you consider the hiss of a tape and then somehow slowed it down a lot (what the kids call "screw it") then this could be an idea of what it's like but not exactly. A soft sort of squeal comes out in the next track and I like to think of this as sounding like muted rats.
As the sound I thought of as squeals grows louder it takes on more of a water running sound. It's not rain but it could be from a faucet, for example, and just running enough to create this sound that is somewhere between loud and quiet: a moderate volume. The sound begin to fade and then slowly rip through. While the sound begins to shift to almost sounding like a pur, it comes through in more calming waves now, as if some kind of electronic ocean at low tide.
What comes next is quite the wave of wind- just as being caught outside in a wind storm- but there is this other sound I don't know quite know how it's made. You have to imagine the inside of a lightbulb and how if you shake it there can be this rattle. Imagine that rattling sound only coming through as a scratching. A higher pitched sound joins this song as it sounds somewhere between seagulls and sped up robotics. The wind becomes isolated as the track comes to a close along with Side A.
A sound such as dragging a metal pipe across a driveway is heard to open Side B. The sound which joins this could be the hiss of bugs but I like to think of it as a sprinkler since I'm imagining this as being outside in a driveway. A dim light buzzing type of sound comes in next- by itself- and for some reason this makes me feel like it could really generate some sort of trauma in someone physically- a headache at least perhaps. It rises up and then cuts off and becomes somewhat muted what I believe to be words (or at least vocal sounds) with a slight ringing behind it.
This shifts into a distinct sound such as someone crumbling up paper or that sort of effect though I think that isn't quite how it is made. A little buzzing, perhaps to remind us of where we started, and then something more mechanical comes through: a combination of that pipe dragging and some sort of machine being used on a construction site such as a cement mixer. As all the sounds combine for one loud concept they then single themselves done to one almost banging sound as the track comes to an end.
Static softly creeps up on the next track. A little hollow fog joins the idea of a bottle rolling around, such as a loose one having its own journey on some desolate highway. This turns into a scraping sound which has more of an electronic, video game type of feel to it. It could also be an electric typewriter and I feel like if you are not intrigued by how these sounds are being made you are not paying close enough attention.
We go back into that dark and hollow place now. A slight bottle rattle joins the brooding drone. This just sort of fades out in the end and I don't think it could have ended any other way. When I think back to the part right after where I said it could've caused a headache, it reminds me of something I think of often. If you wear earbuds (I prefer them over headphones) and then take them off you'll notice this shift in volume because you've gone from everything up close and delivered right to your ear to everything being more spaced out and broad.
I've always wondered if there was a name for this sensation but the thing about it is, Nick Hoffman seems to capture it here within these songs. Not only that, but he also manages to use his sounds to explore the science of what different levels can do to the listener physically and I think that's always a concept people should enjoy if not as an artist then definitely as a listener. A sort of hearing test, but what else is listening to music really.