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Jim Haynes - Telegraphy By The Sea

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Artist: Jim Haynes

Album: Telegraphy By The Sea

Label: Helen Scarsdale

Review date: Jan. 29, 2007

San Francisco-based composer and multimedia installation artist Jim Haynes quite vividly describes his methodology as one of “rust”; to rust, that is, as a verb. Certainly the sonic equivalents to rust, decay and dereliction are at the heart of his sound art. Beyond the quite beautiful hand-pressed limited edition packaging, Telegraphy By The Sea on CD contains nearly an hour of crackling static, shifting drones, sibilant hissings, and plaintive cries that sound part machine, part avian. The overall effect might make one think of some vast industrial zone slipping slowly into the organic processes of a primeval swamp, or of oceans rising slowly and gently in a gray, destructive - yet oddly alluring - haze.

Of course, the strength of sonic art like this often lies in its very ambiguity: What I hear will most likely not be what you hear. And Haynes’s own particular strength lies in his tactile sense of sound as object. These sounds are not textures or tints so much as they are actual materials: they seem worked and wrought: scraped, polished; welded, hammered; pounded, dented, broken.

There is a section late in the piece where lovely, harmonically consonant and hollowly radiant drones give way to broken fields of short-wave radio transmission: nearly incomprehensible voices speaking, all but lost in the ratio of signal to noise. The sudden, albeit distant, revelation of something like human communication arrives like an epiphany. But as it continues, the epiphany is eventually subsumed into enigma and ambiguity once again. A powerful shift of perception has occurred.

It’s perceptive shifts like this, along with that messy, noisy, alluring gray haze, that make me want to return to Telegraphy By The Sea and listen yet again.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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