Anyone who digs the outré may want to get their shovel out for Water Of Life. This is a fairly unique project built on the premise of making music from field recordings made of the water that flows through Edinburgh.
The following passage from Water Of Life’s bandcamp page explains further:
Recordings made with hydrophone, ambient and contact microphone recordings of rivers, spring houses, manhole covers, pub barrel rooms, pipelines and taps are mixed with the peals and drones of 1960s transistor organs, harmoniums, Swedish micro-synths, drum machines and iPads: a blend of the natural and unnatural; modern and antiquated; hi-fi and lo-fi. Drum beats were sampled from underwater recordings, and reverbs created using the convolution reverb technique to recreate the sonic space of different bodies of water.
Many of the sounds collected around Edinburgh and used to make the record are available on a sound map here:
So, Tommy Perman and Rob St John have been out, captured sounds and manipulated their finding into a delightful album called Water Of Life.
The music is generally ambient but one of the great strengths is that the music isn’t aimless and meandering, there is generally the pulse of rhythm ticking along. This isn’t just background music, this is music you can tune yourself into.
Another great strength of the album is its brevity. That isn’t a backhanded compliment, if this album were to be a couple of hours long the appeal would be lost. But this is a snappy 30-ish minutes that is just right to listen to while you have a brew, a biscuit and read a few pages of your current book. Having the discipline to keep songs short is much to their credit.
The intro piece, ‘Sources and Springs’ starts fairly demurely with a little too much emphasis on running water. Let’s face it, we’ve heard it all before. Even sodding Oasis did it.
‘Comiston Springs Water House’ is where things get interesting. What sounds like a harmonium is contrasted with all manner of gurgling and flushing. A rather comical, insistent gait keeps momentum up and the end result is hypnotic.
‘Oxgangs Elegy’ takes a post rock path with a lonely passage of organic drone.
‘Abercrombie 1949’; chirping, pastoral and bucolic this would feel at home on John Cale’s seminal Paris 1919.
‘Lost Loch’s is the longest track here, weighing in at a shade over 8 minutes. Starting slowly, a trickle of water turns into gush. What sounds like delicate Vini Reilly-esque guitar arrives. Meditative organ drones underpin the affair.
‘Liquid City’ pushes a motorik groove and dance-floor keys. In both sound and vision this is pure Kraftwerk and make no mistake, you could dance to this.
(While we’re on the subject of motorik music and civil amenities, Warm Digit’s album Interchange based on the building of the Newcastle Metro is highly recommended).
Click to listen to ‘Liquid City’
The ghostly voices of ‘The Shelleycoat’ take the album off in yet another direction as we hear a children’s song about a watery spirit.
‘Seafield Sewage Works’ closes the album with a downbeat, distorted buzz. Once clear, the music is now dirtied and rusty. And with that Water Of Life vanishes…
The variety of songs on here belies the ‘ambient’ tag and the stuffy connotations that the concept may arise. More than anything the music is fascinating and left me eager to know more, not just about the making of the album but the themes and concepts that the artists explore, particularly about the sequencing of Water Of Life.
Maybe the best reason to buy this album is that it exists.