Julia Kent & Jean DL – The Great Lake Swallows (Gizeh, 2018)


Urbanisation, a necessary evil one could say. Cities provide convenient centres for work, industry and habitation, funneling people into a dedicated region rather than having a sprawling, decentralised population that consumes precious countryside. They come at a price however, a deep seated artificiality and unnatural environment: there are too many people; there is too much steel and concrete; and there are far too few quiet and green spaces.

City living is a dark and consumptive force, this awful black mass that can suck the life and enthusiasm out from anyone. In this short four parter we’re given a minimal view of the urban feeling but it is not a positive one. Cello dominates each piece, flecks of guitar the only other instrument here and barely there for the most part. The strings are almost funereal, long and lachrymose sustains that blanket the field recordings beneath to differing effect.

Firstly it is careful, introductory. “Part One” spins its stringed ribbons gracefully, supplemented by windy and rustling disquiet below. Sirens and alarms can just be heard slicing through in distant, warbling whoops, carried on darkling airs and suppressed by the cello, drowned out like a pillow over the ears. Night is scarcely quiet here; there’s always something in motion, and “Part Two” plays on this strongly. The strongest track here, a feeling of distress and anxiety at the pace of the world squeezes out from every pore.

Bird song becomes warped, industrial bendings cruising effortlessly over their displaced language, all the while heady instrumentation crashes over it all in a wave of supposed civilisation. This is an erasure of the natural order, of the speed and sound of the world. It tries to highlight some sense of bucolic integration with “Part Three” with softer, lighter tones and the pleasant buzz of distant and blurry yet familiar voices. The garden is a lie though, a manicured corner as natural as the city it exists within, the solitude and serenity it offers hollow and unsatisfying.

With this, feeling drains away in “Part Four”. Resignation runs deep in the unnerving finality of the cello drones, heaving crooning mourning lamentations lost in a sea of dystopian vision. It has a cursed sound, post-apocalyptic almost in the crunchings and crashings and rumblings that permeate its fabric: the fear of never hearing silence again, of never escaping the endless grasp of man.