Following on from the psychoacoustic concrète of Outside Ludlow / Desert Disco LP (BT075), Sam Dunscombe returns to Black Truffle with Two Forests / Oceanic. Dunscombe has been active in recent years on multiple fronts, including as a key member of the Berlin community of Just Intonation researchers and practitioners; working with composers like Taku Sugimoto, Mary Jane Leach, and Anthony Pateras; and the release of Horatiu Radulescu - Plasmatic Music vol. 1 (the result of many years performance research into the thought and music of this seminal Romanian spectralist). In parallel with these activities, Dunscombe has been deeply involved in research on the role of music in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, prompting these two side long pieces, composed using field recordings and digital synthesis. As Dunscombe explains in the accompanying liner notes, music plays a key role in psychedelic-assisted therapy, yet it is often restricted to stock forms of New Age, ambient and electronica. Taking seriously the potential for spatio-environmental sonic experiences to add to the therapeutic process, these two pieces are intended to suggest how ‘a music-as-environment approach may help to add options to the therapist’s toolbox’.
‘Two Forests’ begins in a central Californian sequoia grove. Bird songs and buzzing insect life are treated with a variety of time-based processing methods (slicing and recombination, primitive granular synthesis, delay, and so on), which strip the field recordings of their linear, documentary character, reframing them in an enchanted web of traces and echoes. Analysing the pitches found in the original recordings, Dunscombe used them to generate a large Just Intonation pitch set. These tones are woven slowly into the field recordings, gradually building in density and complexity until the forest has been transformed into an unreal space of infinite proportions. Emerging from this cosmic expanse in the final minutes of the piece, we find ourselves in the Amazon rainforest outside Manaus, Brazil. As Dunscombe writes, the piece creates ‘a sense of place-gone-strange, of space and time simultaneously expanding and contracting across octaves, miles, and minutes’. On ‘Oceanic’, several recordings of different beaches fade in and out to create a texture both homogenous and constantly shifting in both the rhythm of the waves and each recording's sense of depth and distance. Tones relating in simple ratios to the average rhythm of each beach float over each other, colouring the white noise texture of the field recordings with shifting hues. In both pieces, Dunscombe forgoes the easy consonance that bogs down much contemporary ambient music for a richer harmonic array informed by extended tuning practices and spectralism. The end results suggest a hitherto undreamt-of meeting of Radulescu’s undulating sonic masses and the discreetly processed location recordings of Irv Teibel’s ‘psychologically ultimate’ Environments. Looking beyond the insularity that can afflict experimental music culture, Dunscombe’s work is a moving argument for the healing power of expanded approaches to sound and music. Even outside of a psychedelics-assisted therapy, frequent immersion in Two Forests / Oceanic is almost guaranteed to produce beneficial psychological results.