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  • Nathan Yoder

Album of the Week - V/A - Particle Count

This past summer, armed with the most basic instruments, I tried my hand at a bit of amateur field recording. It's been quite the year for albums centered around collected sounds, and as a listener just diving into this curious world, I set out to catalogue the unique noises of specific spaces. I recorded bubbling streams in Montana, a dawn chorus in remote Eastern Oregon, the waves breaking on a jetty outside of Astoria - and it was all pretty terrible. Fun, yes, but it turns out that the art of field recording is just that: an art form which takes research, patience, and skill. It was that experience coupled with the devastating and ongoing burning of the West, my home, that made Ian Wellman and Room40's Particle Count compilation not only impressive to me, but one which resonated in a deeply personal and emotional place.

When Wellman dreamt up Particle Count, he wanted to pay tribute to spaces affected by the recent fires by enlisting the help of musicians, composers, and sound artists either from the West, or who had spent a significant amount of time in the area. Each contributor, then, essentially serves as a guide to a spot of their choosing. A listener may have never visited the Angeles forest, but Wellman takes us there in four scenes. Andy Martin lights up Okanogan County on his contribution, Sinlahekan Valley Dawn Chorus 2019-04-22. Patricia Wolf perfectly captures a spot in my own backyard on Sauvie Island Wilderness Area. And Tim Kahn paints a landscape on Ripplebrook - a place I go camping each summer which will surely never look the same again. And that's why this compilation hits so hard. Many of these sacred spaces no longer exist as they once did, and we are left only with these precious recordings as memories.

If you choose to listen to this excellent compilation this week, please consider paying for it, as money raised through Bandcamp will be donated to three different wildfire relief funds. With collective action and serious intervention, hopefully we can slow the devastating effects of climate change, leaving remote and perfectly beautiful corners of the West for aspiring experimentalists like me to imperfectly capture. Hear a sample track below, but again, go buy the album.


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