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Seth Nehil and Olivia Block - Sunder, Unite

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Artist: Seth Nehil and Olivia Block

Album: Sunder, Unite

Label: Sedimental

Review date: Jul. 21, 2004

The marvelously concrete title of Sunder, Unite describes the artists’ working methods, namely separating sounds from their sources and bringing them back together. Block and Nehil, two young sound artists who live at distant ends of the country (Austin and Chicago), painstakingly crafted this 38-minute piece of musique-concrete over several years of face-to-face and postal collaboration. They took field recordings of urban spaces, live performances involving amplified grass rustling and fire crackling, a few instrumental contributions by reed players, and re-recordings of installations.

They disrupted their source materials by inserting silences and running them through lo-fi electronics, arranged them, and then swapped recordings and reworked them some more. The results should consistently engage fans of Metamkine’s Cinema de L’Oreille series, and like the best of those recordings, Sunder, Unite encourages the listener to re-evaluate their relationship with their environment.

By cutting sounds short or removing them from their surrounding contexts, the artists encourage the audience to hear them anew, and to hear them now; after all, they might not be around long. By juxtaposing sounds, they illuminate hidden similarities; did you ever consider how similar fire, rain, and static can sound to one another? By blurring them until they’re unrecognizable, they render the commonplace unique. Nehil and Block select sounds rich enough to stand up to close scrutiny. They arrange them in non-obvious but intuitively right ways that highlights the mystery of sound without actually illuminating it.

By Bill Meyer

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