The Rambler

CD Review Pollen

By: Tim Rutherford-Johnson


Language: English

If you look closely enough down a microscope, the familiar hierarchy of peripheral and foreground vision is disturbed; the visual plane is bent flat onto a slide and the edges become one with the middle. Listening to the microsonics of Ute Wassermann and Richard Barrett’s pollen one finds a similar effect: as Barrett’s electronics zoom our ears in on the tiniest details of Wassermann’s extraordinary range of whistles and vocalisations, each foreground sound comes to strain at the edges of our field of audition, like particles set in Brownian motion and sealed tight in a balloon. Each track emerges from a particular sound or range of sounds but, as one might expect, this proves no limit to the imagination, but rather helps create a sequence of infinities, singularly characterised.

pollen would seem an apt title, then, but it is just a metaphor, a clue for interpretation, not a prescription. The sheer range of noise presented here legislates against easy comparisons. With Wassermann drawing up the wet, rasping, clicking, scratching sounds of the natural world and Barrett stretching his Mac’s processor as hard as it will go, there is little space left for the middle ground of ‘conventional’ music, even though tiny fragments do drop through: I hear a violin, tabla, something that possibly started life as a celeste. If we must call it anything at all, this is music as pollen, not music about pollen.

And isn’t pollen one of those words – strut, replicant and flock, three track titles on this CD, are others – that the more you say it – pollen – the more the meaning you know it has fades, and the more a new, imaginary meaning you give it comes into focus? And the more we keep listening to this music (and it will keep drawing you back to the beginning again) the more what we think we recognise – bird songs, insect calls, electronic squawks, the momentary flash of a sampled instrument – the more, in fact, it becomes something new and beautiful to us.