In a way, this is a séance.
Illinois composer and visual artist Hali Palombo has drawn on the contents of the UCSB Library Cylinder Audio Archive to create a series of 12 short pieces (none longer than a minute and a half): tiny spells of invocation, using rare and precious ingredients to summon… what, exactly?
The source material lends a patina of obvious age, a borrowed gravitas, and the general impression is of old radios, silent movies, channelling a frisson of nostalgia for times none of us have directly experienced.
Palombo uses repetition, evocative circling fragments of song (from the eerie to the downright jaunty), with the distortion, hiss and crackle of the recording medium itself used as a compositional element, and the results are utterly beguiling… transporting… mesmeric.
Each track is miniature gem, with the compositional attention on presentation, not adornment – which is to say, these cylinder samples are not drenched in effects and groovy electronics, or subsumed by funky beats. Instead a simple, almost-zen, found object aesthetic prevails. And it is delightful.
There’s a sense of eavesdropping – the audio equivalent of peering through a grimy window into an old house, only to see images of yourself.
Even the gentle fade-out at tracks’ end fits well, hinting at our faded histories and memories. As the volume drops, the consciousness tries unsuccessfully to follow each tune, chasing after, but too big to fit down the rabbit-hole.
No matter. Wait a second and Palombo as medium will summon up another…