Review: Various Artists – Vernacular

The very medium that makes Vernacular possible could also threaten its conceptual potency. Physical locality is no longer a factor contributing to the ease of information exchange; international artistic collaborations can be established through file-swapping or even real-time streams, and compilations such as this one can be arranged through a series of emails and digital audio attachments. Had Vernacular merely been a celebration of a global sound art community, it would have been belated. Instead, the compilation pits this geography of the Internet in amongst the artists’ physical locality – has there been a dilution in the connection between an artist and home – a loosening of the cultural roots – now that we can traverse the web of global interconnection with the same ease as we interact with our physical surroundings?

From the perspective of each artist, Vernacular could be seen as a request to reflect on one’s own situation of self. Scattered amongst many of these contributions are field recordings (the coarse winds and birdsong of Simon Scott’s “Adventurers Fen”, the crackle of fire or vinyl on Janek Schaefer’s “Rest In Piece Knowing The Sound Of Angels”) that indicate the value of the physical. If there’s one thing that the global information exchange fails to replicate, it’s routine and recurrence – perhaps these sounds are the anchoring signatures of home that remain steadfast in the thick, blurred current of international interconnection, grounding the artist where they stand even as the data stream threatens to whisk them away.

But as with so much audio on the sound art spectrum, there’s an ethereality running through these pieces that bears no corporeal roots. “Tenebrae” by Tu M’ feels tonally suspended above the ground, heaving as a cloud of light that dissipates and then clumps together again, while Federico Durand’s “Magnolia” makes a cross-stitch blanket from open guitar strums, dreaming into the past and future simultaneously. The vernacular is smudged somewhat; there’s a confusion and ambiguity in which the artists find refuge, as though the composite of physical and global community has spurred a rejection of both. As such, many of these pieces elicit what feels like a personal vernacular – the dialect of the imagination at its most liberated, finding home within the cocoon of introversion, as though acknowledging the self as the only constant in the swirl of physical/data geography.

From my perspective as a listener, Vernacular feels beautifully unified. While the fact that it flows so effortlessly could be seen as a symptom of a cultural dilution, it doesn’t feel like it; rather, it’s a congregative chorus of a single objective, and despite each contribution eliciting an uncertainty as to where their vernacular takes root, there is a clear passion and assertion with which each artist takes to the theme.