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Jana Winderen: Energy Field

img  Tobias Fischer
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For her new album Energy Field, sound artist Jana Winderen crafted icy audio sculptures from field recordings taken in Greenland, Norway, and the Barents Sea north of Greenland and Russia. Using a portable recording setup, the Norwegian artist and curator collected glacier, fjord, and ocean sounds ranging from ambient wind textures to cracking ice, lulling rhythms of lapping waves, and the low-end frequencies of ominous thunder. She then layered and edited those sounds into three compositions that collectively constitute nearly an hour of surprisingly musical sound art. Constantly churning textures, hypnotic long-tone oscillations, and a powerful sense of compositional arc make Energy Field a captivating and highly listenable experience that plunges you into the haunting depths of Arctic waters.

In her artist statement, Winderen writes that “in the depths of the oceans there are invisible but audible soundscapes, about which we are largely ignorant, even though oceans cover 70% of our planet.” This certainly is apparent on Energy Field, which documents an alien world of sounds that could as easily be generated from dated synthesizers as from the natural sounds of the ocean. It’s amazing just how evocative some of these sounds are. In the final minutes of the album, the high-pitched mating calls of fish weave over sustained dissonances constructed from a combination of wind and underwater hum. The result is a spine-chilling amalgamation at least as strange as anything conjurable by modern electronic music. In “Isolation Measurement,” creaking and cracking glaciers create a fizzing stereo effect from which one seemingly perceives moments of rhythmic regularity. As underlying bass currents seep beneath the texture and the sounds of birds and crashing waves become increasingly apparent, the composition hints at a climax before disintegrating into quiet gurgling.

A compositional arc of tension and relief pervades the entire album. And while it’s difficult (and perhaps unimportant) to discern how much of it is intentional versus circumstantial, it makes for a highly musical result that’s far more engaging than your typical “field-recordings as sound art” gallery installations. Sustained oceanic chords with an endless array of overtones ebb and swell over ominous low-end rumblings to generate harmonic movement and stasis. Polyrhythms emerge from the juxtaposition of churning waves and trickling water. And despite constantly changing textures, environmental consistencies of sounds, chords, and rhythms establish thematic unity to create cohesive compositions as opposed to collage-like layerings of field recordings.

Energy Field is as powerful musically as it is impressive conceptually. Winderen’s unique sonic space of naturally alien sounds and juxtapositions draws you into the depths of an unknown underwater world and holds you there. 


By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Jana Winderen
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