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CM Von Hausswolff - There Are No Crows Flying Around the Hancock Building

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Artist: CM Von Hausswolff

Album: There Are No Crows Flying Around the Hancock Building

Label: Lampo

Review date: Feb. 4, 2006

The John Hancock Center may now be dwarfed by Chicago’s Sears Tower, but, upon its completion in 1969, it was the tallest building in the city, and it was revered as an architectural milestone. The tower remains the fourth highest in the country, with an outdoor observation deck on the 94th floor, offering patrons the chance to venture outside and into the city’s storied winds at an elevation of 1,000 feet. When invited by Lampo to create a work within the confines of the Second City, it was the Hancock’s observation deck that Hausswolff chose as his destination, a high-rise recording studio that found Hausswolff surrounded by the wind, the sounds of his fellow sightseers, and those of the city (and building) below.

Hausswolff’s final product, There Are No Crows Flying Around the Hancock Building is not simply a field recording; upon his return to Sweden, Hausswolff crafted an accompaniment to the recording, a feedback loop inspired, so it seems, by an imagined murder of crows circling the building’s upper reaches. This oscillating tone, a monstrosity of low-end grit, slowly deteriorates, with peals of feedback seeping through the cracks in its grim exterior and a dissolution of the prominent bass crunch into an even more ragged revolution. It’s ten minutes before Hausswolff’s field recordings find their way into the mix, by which point the crows are a muffled and slowly fade into the background. But, after only a few minutes of the unadorned sounds of the city, Hausswolff’s dark-winged denizens make their return, slowly swallowing the sound until only a dark pulse remains. The album closes with further variations on the cyclical feedback, from a clean tone to one so encumbered with static it seems almost immovable.

This last segment of the disc is a departure from the thematic backbone of the album; no longer is it so easy to envision Hausswolff’s crows in the music, but if There Are No Crows Flying Around the Hancock Building relied completely on this visual for its impact, it would be a far less compelling listen. As it is, Hausswolff’s forty minutes of speaker torture is, at proper volume, capable of great impact. It’s a disc that forces itself upon the listener, as it has its way with the unlucky stereo equipment upon which it’s played. There’s an almost meticulous sense of order to the recording as well, and Hausswolff proves that he needs not rely only on harshness and sheer force. One wishes he had used the field recording more often, since it seems that the actual Hancock recordings take a back seat on much of the album to the unholy rumble of Hausswolff’s crows. But were the disc to dispense completely with the organic source material and the atmosphere it inspired, There Are No Crows Flying Around the Hancock Building would nonetheless be a forceful and unnerving listening experience.

By Adam Strohm

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