Somnambule - Writing About Music

Ellen Band and David Lee Myers ~ Two Ships

Two Ships contains three multi-part pieces titled Valen Lagoon, Cape Uiqven and Laventiya Bay. Such names are exotic enough in themselves to make one wonder whether they’re imaginary creations or ones that might actually grace real locations. The CD’s cover illustration is a map that displays these names, but the first few pages of an internet search solipsistically returns only references to Band and Myers’ recording itself. Oddly, both the press release and the liner notes choose to talk only about the two performers’ creative collaboration, rather than addressing potential subjects such as sonic geographies, conceptual perspectives and so on.

The background to Valen Lagoon burbles with electronically treated percussion, while in the foreground the busy, almost confrontational soundscaping invites comparison with Brian Eno’s ambient landmark, On Land. However, instead of Eno’s foggy solitude, Valen Lagoon initially forces the hectic life of the rain forests through your loudspeakers. Band and Myers achieve the sort of sonic density conveyed by the horror of Frances Ford Coppola’s threatening and utterly alien jungle in Apocalypse Now. The introductory passage of Cape Uiqven might be the memories of Valen Lagoon refracted through the broken signals of a shortwave radio. As the piece progresses the agitated wildlife provokes comparison with another classic ambient collaboration in the form of David Toop and Max Eastley’s criminally out of print Buried Dreams. Alongside the feeling of lonely horror in Band and Myers’ work, there is also a sense of cumulative drama that engages and maintains attention. The third part of Cape Uiqven sounds like an alien crashing through the forest, causing great agitation in the wildlife it disturbs while the final part sounds like a makeshift tribal rite.

The first of the four part of Laventiya Bay is more subdued and contemplative, but a feverish insect chatter starts up that’s soon joined by the popping and chafing of all sorts of unfamiliar clamouring. The final section ends in a blizzard of white noise as though the shortwave radio signal has been lost forever, eclipsed by the turning of day into night. Two Ships is a nightmarish, gripping collection of journeys into the unknown. Whether or not the locations are imaginary, the trip is recommended.
Colin Buttimer
August 2005
Published by the BBC