1: 12 June 2019
Initially I am drawn to four presences. The first, and most prominent, is the landscape. The waves collapsing into the rock. Birdsong forming archways overhead. The clink and chatter of a restaurant. Children playing. The second is a subterranean disturbance: the low rumbles of nausea and oil, spreading through the earth and pressing upward through my feet, like gigantic engines buried underground. The third is a subtle, hovering music – strange drones that congeal in the air like clouds of pollutant or oceanic vapours, sometimes resembling the warm and unclean output of industrial cooling fans, though sometimes forming the outline of a divine choir for just a moment. Voices traced into the wind. This music feels like a subconscious output of the environment, harmonically beautiful yet dull and unchanging in tone (the exception being the brief and unnverving broadcasts of classical music, which come and go like nomadic transmissions from the distant past). The final presence is that of the artist herself, either as footsteps shuffling over rock or via the momentary appearance of recognisable instruments. A single string is bowed, prolonged into a snarl, and then disappears. Like a knife dragged diagonally through a photograph.
The Black Isle ultimately exists in the quadrangulation of these presences, conjured through the negotiation between intentional gestures and the uninterrupted environment, or between explicit corporeal presences and the infringement of adjacent realities upon this one – all mediated by an human actor trying to make sense of the picture as a whole. It’s a world that feels part-hidden from me, and there are forces acting upon the landscape that I do not actively witness but that I sense with suspicion. The crackle of radio interference appears, and I imagine walkie-talkies scattered all over the place – wedged into rocks, dropped into the water – as part of an effort to capture the attempted communications of these mysterious entities. By the time I’ve reached the closing track, “Alice In The City Of Dead Warlocks”, I feel convinced that the wisps of strange music are trying to tell me something. They feel both ancient and prescient. Perhaps a forgotten past is wafting into the present to deliver a prophetic warning, manifesting as both the residue and the germ of a cyclical catastrophe. Perhaps The Black Isle exists in the prelude and the aftermath, connected to its proximal drama through these faint, beautiful, trembling suggestions alone.
During today’s listen I’m pondering a theme of natural erosion. The reduction of metal to rust. The abrasion of salt water lapping over the rocks. Slow, inevitable forms of decay that devour larger forms of matter. All of the metallic textures feel dulled, and I can imagine running my hands across the flaked orange of a metal bannister as I listen to a piece like “The Vent”, which is haunted by a metallic scrape that sounds like a manhole cover twirled upon the pavement. On “Black Forest”, the guttural groan of a bowed string seems to acknowledge this theme of erosion, emphasising the rasp of dry contact just as much as the low drone that quivers across the woodland floor. And of course, all of this erosion sends matter swirling into the ether, resulting in clouds of ambience that feel like a thick, discoloured air: particles of ash, the stagnant smells of worn material, the fragrant tang of the sea. A medley of molecules liberated from objects and surfaces. The colour palette is burnt or pale, with each shade sombrely mourning its own former brightness. The Black Isle hums with the steady onset of death; or perhaps more accurately, the gradual surrender of all material form to the wind.