Vacant Lights/Rara Avis

Die Stadt

avid Jackman has been creating music since the 1960s, either as a member of the experimental group The Scratch Orchestra, as a solo performer under his own name, or as part of his own group, Organum. His music is decidedly eccentric and remarkably varied, from ambient drones to industrial noise to metallic percussion. His work as Organum, however, adds something rather unique: spatial context. Many of the tracks he recorded as Organum were recorded in real time in particular locations, in order to make use of the acoustic space of each location. One of these location recordings was Vacant Light. It was first released in a very limited edition back in the 1980s, but Die Stadt have been gracious enough to re-release this work, giving more people a chance to hear this wonderful music.

Vacant Light was created by Jackman and Dinah Jane Rowe in the backyard of a recording studio in Shepherd's Bush, London, in 1986. Four recordings were made, but only two remain, and it is these two that appear on disc one of this set. Both recordings were created live using a variety of metallic objects, lilting pipe music, traffic and other industrial sounds and natural sounds (wind, especially). On the first track (17 minutes long), these sounds combine to create something weird and creepy, like the prototype soundscape for a more urban version of Myst, in that it offers up something that manages to combine everyday sounds with eerie atmospherics, thus rendering the ordinary world slightly creepier. The second track (15 minutes long) retains that creepy edge while adding the faint whiff of human voices echoing around in the freaky urban Myst world. These are two really fascinating compositions that seem to effortlessly create vivid and even frightening emotional landscapes out of everyday sounds.

For this re-release, Die Stadt have included a second work by Organum, Rara Avis, which is a collection of five pieces, three of which have been released as singles and one of which (the title track) has been reworked for this collection. It sounds weird to say it, but I consider these works to be more in line with what I consider "experimental music" to be. That is, they use lots of droning screeches, long, elliptical noises, and other types of things I've heard from a lot of different artists (including the Scratch Orchestra, Tony Conrad, John Cale and many more). They're interesting, but I'm much less interested in these types of experiments than I am with experiments like Vacant Light, which seem imbued with a certain emotional power that long screeches just can't reach.

Really, though, the Rara Avis disc is a bonus. The real prize here—and the reason to purchase this work—is Vacant Light, a piece that was created quickly but which possesses a power and a depth that few musical works can match. Moreover, as the Myst analogy suggests, this is music that was well ahead of its time in 1986 and deserves closer examination today.

Reviewed by: Michael Heumann

Reviewed on: 2004-12-15

Recent Reviews By This Author

Mark Fell - Ten Types of Elsewhere
Signer - The New Face of Smiling
DoF - Mine is May
Shuttle358 - Chessa
Bizz Circuits - Bizz Circuits Play Intifada Offspring Vol. 1: Nishbar Li Ha

Log In to Post Comments
No comments posted.
all content copyright 2004