If you weren't aware, Oregon (and much of the American West, for that matter) is currently on fire. A toxic cloud of smoke has settled over Portland while both an ongoing health crisis and a very justified and publicized fucking up of the local government still rage on. I've slept a handful of hours over the past few days, gripped by anxiety, and when I awoke at 3:00 AM the other night, dazed and loopy from the smoke inhalation and news scrolling, I decided to sit for a while at our front window while listening to David Toop's new collection of old field recordings. It was a surprisingly intense and emotional experience, both claustrophobic and lifting at one, immersive and almost hallucinatory.
Before an examination of the music (recordings? sounds? clips?), a note about the release. Sonic legend David Toop released two albums this past Friday (the other being Apparition Paintings), and while at first glance it seems that Field Recordings and Fox Spirits clocks in at nearly two hours, the first track is Room40 founder Lawrence English's interweaving of Toop's 18 field recordings that follow. So you get an expertly-constructed 37-minute composition first, and then you can listen to the hour-plus of separated field recordings after, if you so choose (but you probably should).
The recordings used for the mix vary widely in their subject, vintage, and location captured. You'll hear wasp buzzing, crashing cymbals, street noise, interviews, wind and rain, flute performance, frogs, bells, candid conversations and more from Toop's adventures between the early 1970's and present day. The sounds come from his native England, but also Thailand, Venezuela, Greece, and other corners of the world. Having dodged tuk tuks myself in Southeast Asia, I was transported to that place as I listened in the dark of my home. And when the final recording of the album played, which is a crackling tape of Juliette Toop singing away, it felt like an exhale. For those two hours I was somewhere else, and if you're needing a break, maybe you can sit with it in the early hours of the morning, too.*
*But taking a break does not mean disengaging altogether. It's important to continue pushing against capitalistic and racist forces which are degrading our world. Just look after your mental health as well. That's all.