Review: Sebastiane Hegarty – Southerlies

My walking, like my listening, has a tendency to wander”.

This quote from Hegarty is made incredibly apparently during his sonic exploration of Winchester Cathedral: the gorgeous lull of choir song wafting warmly around the building’s large interior is cut off abruptly by the slam of a metal gate, marking his departure and subsequent “wandering off” into the outdoors. Far from disappearing within his work and letting the places take the fore, Hegarty is the protagonist – the composer, the active party – dictating the direction of each piece simply by moving within the soundscape, pushing back against the inescapable imposition of sound to reclaim a degree of control over the listening experience. There’s no sense of trying to capture the essence or definitive sonic picture of a location, and rather than simply lure the listener into a deeper and more attentive state of listening, Southerlies is a fascinating reminder of the fact that the ears are mobile things, and that secrets and hidden narratives can be uncovered when one is willing to move out into the space around them.

“HMS Victory” hears Hegarty ducking and slinking between creaking beams and wooden panels, occasionally emerging on deck to the distant squawk of seagull and ghostly drone of faraway traffic. On “Watercress Line” (a steam railway running through Hampshire, England), we hear the preparatory clangs and rustles that precede the train’s departure, followed by the accelerating huffs of steam that signify its movement. The album is littered with sounds (or shifts between sounds) that signify movement and transition: opening/closing gates, fading conversations, loose surfaces rattling under propulsive forces, the gradual muffle of moving from the outside to somewhere inside. The experience is wholly subjective one – not the documentation of a place but the chance narrative that arises from navigating a unique path through it, bustling with the sound of activity and interconnection; human communication, collisions of characters and events, impacts and frictions against various surfaces.