Between June & July 2004, as guests of Kunst I Nordland, NWW broadcast twenty four unexpected radio transmissions from the Arctic Lofoten Islands, eight of which are included here.
Review by Lucas Schleicher from Brainwashed : Eight new broadcasts from the chilly world of the Arctic Lofoten Islands are made available on this double disc and, in some ways, they all exemplify just how much Steven Stapleton must be falling in love with digital sound stretching. Just as the first volume was an effort to reshape the world around them in sound, the second volume of Shipwreck Radio turns the world of Lofoten into a strange place occupied by distortions of the Arctic's natural sound world.
Every last track starts with a warning, a little signature from Stapleton and Potter that must've announced the coming weirdness to everyone that had their radios set to the right frequency. "BEEP, Welcome to Utvær," over and over again, in various forms, occupies the first seconds of every track. I have to wonder why, everyone knows what this is, the whole concept is too cool to ignore and, to some extent, the concept adds to the grandeur of the music. At times it almost seems like that infernal beeping is a necessary part of the music, as though Stapleton and Potter wanted to use it as an integral part of their construction and, at other times, it seems like an inexplicably placed marker for travelers who already know where they are.
Once the damn beeping is said and done with, the majesty of the work that follows is undeniable and in some ways, very much a return for Stapleton to his work on Soliloquy for Lilith. Gone are the signature Dadaist sound collage menageries or the out-and-out whacky constructions of found sounds and semi-krautrock influenced rock and in is the eerie, slowly moving ploughs of heavy, dirty soundscapes. There can be no doubt of Lofoten's remoteness nor of its strange openness, the absolute loneliness its landscapes must inspire after listening to both discs. In absence of chance to be left wandering in the snow or out on the sea during a blizzard, Stapleton and Potter have provided a chance to hear what it might feel like, in a slightly masked form.
While the duo, to a large extent, is masking the real properties of the sounds they recorded, the drama that their manipulations add to the samples is nothing short of necessary for the album and maybe even for the mythology and liveliness of the islands. It's hard not to imagine the ice-blue frames of sunken ships creaking beneath the water, fish swimming in and out of their halls, and perhaps stranger creatures waiting inside. "June 6" is especially effective in eliciting that shuttering, wavering, and wearying sense of ill fortunes and unspeakable terror. In some senses, however, I'm slightly disappointed that more sounds weren't left alone or simply edited only slightly. Many of the tracks seem to be fiercely aquatic or perhaps subterranean, but the sounds of Utvær could've been equally interesting and having a sense of where some of these sounds might've come from would've added to the intrigue of the islands and the whole project.
As it stands, Shipwreck Radio Volume Two seems a tribute to exactly what its title implies. The haunted world of dead mariners, sunken ships, and impossibly dark caverns all get their share on this record. The only place where the program really changes is on "June 19," where Nurse with Wound slowly builds a strange industrial disco composed of all manner of chains, sheet metal, and empty oil drums. Birds are plainly audible in the mix as are the swells that dominate most of the album. It's the best and most fun track on the album, partially because it stands out from the rest of the album so much, but mostly because the duo incorporate a wider variety of sounds within this one track. I can almost dance to it and the pseudo-melody that plays through the background is way too easy to hum for my own good. The entire album is beautiful, sometimes scary, and outright strange, but a part of me very much wanted to hear the people of Lofoten and its natural beauty as much as anything else.
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