AMN Reviews: Artificial Memory Trace – Tidal (Auf Abwegen)

Both under his own name and as Artificial Memory Trace, Czech-born Irish resident Slavek Kwi has scrutinized the poignancy of hearing as “the fundamental determinant of relations with reality” for years now. He has created reams of recordings, installations, film and radio work, on his own and in tandem with an impressive array of collaborators, including his self-proclaimed mentor Frederic Rzewski. As an “artist in the community”, he has run workshops for special needs children. His electro-acoustic collages wildly mix rural and urban, bird song and dolphin squeal, the huge and loud and the very tiny and very soft.

Tidal is a string of untreated field recordings made along the coasts of Newfoundland and Ireland between 2008 and 2010, meticulously annotated in the liner notes – “sea, gradually stormy”, “sea otter fishing in the harbour”, “wavelets in the abandoned quarry”. Kwi also places an asterisk beside each element that has been recorded under water. However, he also adds that their arrangement is strictly “organized by morphological associations” and treated as abstractions, so “all track titles, notes and information are therefore irrelevant”.

Even without human intervention, the ocean is a profoundly acoustic place. The consonance of the two great islands, intimately linked by Celtic ancestry, is expressed in Kwi´s work by nature not culture, the Atlantic itself, with the sounds it makes when someone is listening closely at its shores – the brine slapping the hull of metal boats, wind plaguing the walls of a wooden church, crustacean crackle and iceberg crumble. The two enclaves become one and the Pond a mere tidal pool.

Stephen Fruitman