Review: Jeph Jerman – 34°111’3″N 111°95’4″W

sablona_4_panel_Jcard.inddI know I’m hearing the recordings of an abandoned windmill, as captured by a minidisc recorder and a handmade contact microphone. And that’s all I know. I can only guess what materials and mechanisms are present. Perhaps those high metallic wines are the sound of Jerman forcing the mill blades to turn, causing them to complain via laments of stiffness and rust. Perhaps those intermittent taps are trickles of rain from outside. At one point, I’m sure I can hear a plane passing overhead, with the groan of the engine humming through the hollow metallic chassis of the windmill. At another, I wonder whether a harsh wind is generating the low rumble that surges in from beneath, rattling the loose panels and agitating the stale air that lingers in the windmill interior. There is just enough activity on this record to send me into streams of speculation, yet not enough to provide me with solid answers. The windmill emerges in faint traces of contour, incoherent voice and rusted timbre, like a flash light illuminating mere slithers of an object in the darkness.

It’s a dance between realism and deliberate obscurity. Jerman’s choice to present the album in mono – as well as opting for lower quality forms of microphone – mean that the album rattles and distorts with the imprint of circumstance: subjective perception, time-specificity, the imperfect delivery of the medium. On the last of these three pieces, I’m sure I can hear objects falling onto the microphone itself, planting dull thumps of impact amidst the richer, more complex documentations of material friction and metallic resonance. A higher quality recording would place me inside the abandoned windmill, overlaying my actual acoustic surroundings with a vivid evocation of a Slovakian elsewhere. Instead, the deficient fidelity traps the album in a state of documentation, more akin to reading a scrawled entry in Jerman’s diary rather than transporting myself to the time and place of the event itself. Just as the windmill has been reduced to a shell of metal residue and decay, Jerman’s recordings are archaeological fragments of the event from which they derive, as mesmeric for the details they drop as for the clanging, rumbling details they manage to retain.