Seaworthy + Matt Rösner - "Meroo Forest" (Two Lakes)
If you take the long view, nature is a sturdy thing. Living things were on this planet many millions of years before Homo sapiens happened along, and even if cockroaches and mold are all that’s left after humans are gone, nature will have had the last laugh. But natural systems, like species or individual creatures, come and go. Australians have the dubious pleasure of possessing a front row seat from which to view climate change in action, with lakes drying up and farmlands turning into firestorm tinder. Who better to make art that ponders nature’s fragility?
Seaworthy (birth name Cameron Webb) and Matt Rösner went to Meroo National Park in April 2010 with two aims. One was to make a detailed field recording study of a place that might not exist in a few decades; the two titular lakes, Meroo and Termeil, are coastal bodies of water that will become part of the Tasman Sea if the oceans keep rising. More recently, parts of the park were hit by fires that temporarily cleared out most living things. The other was to make music with a connection to that place. So they brought both recording gear and instruments, and on breaks from registering the local sounds with their microphones they played music using guitars, laptops and a ukulele. On the last day of the trip, they cobbled together rough mixes of their improvisations and field recordings, which became Two Lakes.
In keeping with their preoccupation with nature’s fragility, Webb and Rösner’s stuff is a far cry from the massive sound events heard on Chris Watson records. Waves lap rather than crash, wind whispers rather than rips and rattles. Their playing is similarly circumspect, favoring discrete scouring sounds, rustic picking, and elongated ribbons of drone. Neither music nor natural sound dominates. Instead, the duo has put the parts together so that they co-exist without jostling one another.
Even when the sounds aren’t human, they’re organized according to human priorities. The serenity of the birdsong/sine wave blend that begins “Meroo Forest” and the elegiac tragedy of the guitar melody on “Meroo Lake Pt. 1” are pregnant with a sense of loss. They don’t come out and say it anywhere in the text on the project’s blog, but I think that Rösner and Webb have a lot of love for the sound environment around these lakes and they want people to feel it enough that they might think such places are worth saving. Whether they intended to do so or not, they’ve pulled it off.