Common Pond

Russ Young

I usually work by trying to create forms out of found audio and material extracted from field recordings. I like to think in terms of skins of sounds and what characteristics I can pour into it them to create a hybrid. I take field recordings of everywhere I go, searching for ‘sound marks’ or 'habitats' that I can capture and use to generate new sound designs and inspire new work.

Common Pond

Common Pond was inspired by places, events and objects around me. The tracks try to create an image by assembling manipulated audio sources. I am always seeking to represent the texture of something, with the intention to create a kind of holographic image with sound. The Tracks refer to local places in Lincoln or on the horizon. The impression of a location or object was absorbed and re-imagined with sound. For example ‘John’s Bike’ was inspired by hearing a neighbour get ready for work every evening. Recordings of his bike were blended and mutated with a found organ sample. Phil’s House is made from recordings of a friend’s 8 upright pianos he kept in his house. I ended up erasing the notes leaving the mechanics behind. I think it sounds like rain on his roof or rain playing his pianos. Lamy’s Sound and light is a local ‘disco equipment’ rental shop at the end of my street. He leaves a cluster of neons flashing all night. Cricket Pitch is a place on the West Common round the corner from where I grew up. The West Common also has a pond and from there you can see the metallic dome of the local astrological society’s observatory roof. East Bight Stones is an old passage near Lincoln Cathedral where the stones have all kinds of amazing erosion forms. Belmont Transmitter is the local transmitter for TV and radio, this track tries to come across as a download or transmission.

AB054 | August 2014



  1. BLEEP

    UK producer Russ Young delivers a debut of electroacoustic composition on the ever experimental Audiobulb Records. Mutating and blending field recordings, the sound artist creates intangible sonic structures rich in associations. ‘John’s Bike’ captures the sound of Young’s neighbours getting ready for work, with Russ electronically modifying the recording into a drone-like texture reminiscent of Oval’s glitch work from the early 90s. For the title track, Young imagined different listening points on a pond and transformed this concept into an expressive soundscape: frogs croak, insects buzz in and out, and the piano holds together the water-like ambient structure.

  2. Touching Extremes

    “The impression of a location or object was absorbed and re-imagined with sound”. I kind of like this description by Russ Young who, in the nine chapters of Common Pond, devises strategies for a set of electronic miniatures that feature melodic warmheartedness, microscopic hues of real world and easy digestibility in equal doses. You know that I’m usually quite grouchy when it comes to evaluating this type of production, and I’m not going to kid anyone by declaring that there’s something authentically groundbreaking in this music. Still, Young distances himself from catchpenny collectives through a gift which I’d macroscopically describe as “love”. As a matter of fact, these snapshots convey feelings similar to those accompanying many summer reflections of the adolescence. Lights glow, insects buzz, liquids drip, objects clatter, reverse chords throb. Shades of blurriness and luminous shards get reflected all around the “holographic images” (to quote the composer yet again). Underwater songs, stratified indolence and, in general, a complete aversion to outrageousness make sure that anything occurring herein will not upset your daydreaming. By putting yourself in the soporific coils of “Belmont Transmitter”, chances are that you’ll end falling asleep on your couch with the mind entirely cleaned up. Me? I could listen to “East Bight Stones” all night long. Good one, this one.

  3. Textura

    Russ Young's digital-only Common Pond, parks itself firmly within the field recordings-based soundsculpting genre. It, too, is a concise release at thirty-six minutes, though its mini-album length makes it a more legitimate candidate for full-length status than Kein's. By his own admission, Young is an enthusiastic field recorder who collects documents wherever he travels, and consequently Common Pond becomes somewhat of a personal sound diary that the listener is invited to share. It also functions as a geographical portrait of Young's immediate environment, given that its eight tracks draw upon locales in Lincoln (UK) or in the surrounding area.

    If there's a nostalgic quality to “Cricket Pitch,” it might have something to do with the fact that it refers to a place on the West Common close where he grew up. And at the risk of reading too much into the track's wondrous mood, perhaps its dreamlike character also has something to with the fact that one can view the metallic dome of the local astrological society's observatory roof from the site (a similar mood is evoked in the closing piece “Observatory Roof”). Young's material is so evocative, it's hard not to listen to “Cricket Pitch” and visualize a solitary figure silhouetted against the night sky gazing at the stars. His comments also often bring clarity to a given piece's design. That “Lamy's Sound and Light” refers to a local ‘disco equipment' shop where neon lights flash all night, for example, helps explain the connection between the track's title and its content. In other cases, such as “Belmont Transmitter” and “Common Pond,” titles alone suffice to suggest what is being alluded to in the sound material.

    The typical Young setting is a detail-packed affair that blends ambient-drone elements and field recordings in equal manner. A glitchy quality at times surfaces (see “Common Pond”), but more often than not Young hews to a more naturalized presentation that de-emphasizes the computer's presence in the final presentation. It's not deadly serious stuff, however: “Phil's House” exemplifies the project's more playful side in the way Young manipulated recordings of eight upright pianos so that they suggest a forceful downpour. In general, his personal approach pays off in drawing the listener's attention to details within everyday experience we tend to gloss over. In listening to “John's Bike,” for instance, the sound of a neighbour driving off to work on his motorbike becomes something worth attending to. Such listening in turn leads us to humbly reflect upon just how much of our lives are constituted by such mundane events.
  4. Igloo Magazine

    I thought I had some conception of real problems, and maybe I still don’t. I don’t have cancer, no human close to me has ever died, I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve never been mugged, or raped—never had to actually choose between safety and morality. My experience with fight or flight is in a social context. But I have felt pain, more recently than ever before in my memory. I have had to hurt someone to advance myself, and said advancement is still laden with risk. Sliding through the ocean of nettles of the last few months, Hiroko unhappy with the kind of man I am but trying to love me, me unable to love myself. Then and now, her to me a question mark stick-and-poke on an internal cavity: it has been a moment of losing. Of loss. Of lost-ness. Family is losing its meaning as a source. Instead it seems to be becoming something I must create, but now aware that marriage is incompatible with me, I’m floating without anchor in the matrix of my own life.

    I’m suspended in a foam. Near me, or behind me the field has solidified, sharpened like a meringue cookie, but holding a bitter warning. Ahead of me the field is dense. Strands of white sway together and separate incomprehensibly. The cylindrical brush of a car wash comes to mind in its weighty rhythm. Common Pond by Russ Young shares this rhythm. The field of Common Pond, as well as my own is comprised of a history of observation, of things found and remembered. This collage, impressive in its realism must be specific to the life of Russ Young, but a realistic depiction of life is never specific as we’ve all been bored, heard sirens, metal grinding; everybody poops. And thus Common Pond to me has been an endeared, compassionate voice, another life’s three dimensional record in dust and time and found things.

    Found things: By the freeway rusted buses lined up under a building topped with a cross and the words dream hotel. At coffee and Tansu finally feels as warm as she’s always seemed, panning up from her a middle-aged and an elderly woman; maybe mother and daughter, caregiver and care-recipient or lovers pass by, hand in hand. Both have lips that have listed down their chins in age like silly-putty. And this day was only half complete. A grueling hour on the 405 Freeway, then into the foam of Torrance, grey and unromantic like plowed snow, and Jason is complaining as usual. Dan wants to feel the mushrooms he ate, but he seems to be expecting them to change his mood for him, and he’s sat in front of a slasher movie—a recipe for disaster.

    These moments occurred among me today, but I know that after I sleep, when I remember this day it will not return as a neat chronology in single file but more as a sort of soup. I wish there was some way for me to distill days like this in a way that doesn’t alter them. I wish the drawings that I make didn’t have to be posed, that I could depict the foamy matrix of what I cherish in my memory just as it is. Well, after hearing the album a couple dozen times, I feel that Russ Young has achieved this sort of ambient journalism with Common Pond.

    To put it another way, every once in a while I find myself repeating the words 交じってさあ (majitte saa) which means uhh mix. It has no meaning, but keeps popping up like a bit of carrot in a boiling pot, and when it goes back down into black, I can be assured that 交じってさあ will return in kind. There is something innate to me about this combination of words, and so I find myself muttering them when I’m cooking, or in traffic. After years there is comfort there. I assume that everyone has personal markers such as this. Pieces of their own past that have somehow become dislodged from their source, a twist of language, a specific tone or a smell; a sensation. And as a historical reference it no longer has a use, but as a point of contact between yourself and your past, these fragments of time are reassuring.

    Russ Young is a point of contact between one man and his own life. We can be assured that Russ Young knows the pavement of “Hewson Road,” the acoustics of the “Belmont Transmitter,” has spent a long hour at “Phil’s House.” He touched these things, these places, and his microphone received them as they were at that specific moment in time, now lost forever. And in spite of a lack of direction, in spite of the recordings indeed having this feeling of being lost in time, I did not find frustration or dissatisfaction in them. Instead there is an honest sort of serenity. It has been a boon to me. Because they are alive, they have an identity. And life and identity, at least put one way, are a foam. An interminable foam unlit but without the need for light, extending behind you in untraversable milestones and ahead, soft but bewildering ground waiting to be cleft. Russ Young has achieved this feeling with his album and to me it has been the murmur of a force both indifferent and familiar.

    I’ll have to go beg Mark tomorrow for another advance on pixel art to be done so that I can make rent. I’ll have to sort out my health insurance. I have several unpaid parking tickets and a long overdue student loan. Certainly enough infractions for a warrant, if not from the police, then god. And I will have to pay. As each song and album must end, there are delineations within each man’s foam. Reality is not completely a creative effort, but a collaborative effort between necessity and perception. The great grand grandfather clock chimes on “Observatory Roof,” and we know that the album will end soon. If you feel lost and fragile, try Common Pond. If you find comfort in dirt, in flaws or realism, try Common Pond. If you think of history as comprised of what mattered to her, then, at that moment, try Common Pond. To me, now, at this moment, Russ Young is easing the loneliness of loss by filling the space between me and myself, and so when I hear that grandfather clock, I click the spiraling repeat arrows in iTunes and give Common Pond another moment of my life.

  5. Monsieur Delire

    I don’t usually do that (and I won’t), but I accepted to review this demo by Russ Young. Common Pond puts forth a fully-formed artistic vision, a sleek approach of experimental ambient music. Short pieces with depth, richness in the sound palette, varied textures, and most of all a strong sense of overlaying. I could easily see this record at home on a label like Room40 or 12k. Sorry to write about something you can’t get your hands on yet, but I’ll broadcast a track or two on Délire actuel soon.

  6. Chain D.L.K.

    I've recently read on an essay by a philosopher who tried to analyze the consequences on personal life of somehow dramatic changes of labour market that one of the few positive aspects should be the corroboration of the so-called sense of community. Even if some cantankerous people taking part to rooftop garden committee or council meetings could invalidate such an idea, it's partially true. The reason of my premise comes from the sonic strategy that Russ Young followed on this nice release, which could be filed in that branch of ambient music that focuses on the attempt of dunking field recordings into a pool of smoothed frequencies as the source of Young's field recordings are mainly familiar sounds that he grabbed from daily events, objects and places, which could be considered as the closest elements of Young's sonic community that he amalgamates and coagulates in his pond. He seems to take them back and "ennobling" by means of the sounds that he manages to extract from them in order "to create a kind of holographic image with sound", according to his own words, so that listeners could stand entranced by the remote and somewhat emotional rendering of Hewson Road in Lincoln, Russ' hometown, on the track of the same name, or by the hypnotical reverie inspired by the radiation from the nearby Belmont transmitting station on "Belmont Transmitter" as well as by some of Russ' neighbours such as John, whose bike he uses to go to workplace every day gave inputs for "John's Bike", or Phil, whose 8 upright pianos he kept in his house are the main "voice" of the amazing "Phil's House" where Russ imagined they got played by driving rain. The mastering by Taylor Deupree is a sort of guarantee quality as usual.

  7. His Voice

    Britský producent a zvukový experimentátor Russ Youngvydal nyní na experimentálním labelu Audiobulb Records elektroakustické album Common Pond. Tento vystudovaný vizuální umělec, v současné době působící v chilském Museo De Arte Moderno Chiloe, si vystačil pouze s vlastními terénními nahrávkami, které různě míchá, mutuje a transformuje, čímž vytváří jakési nehmotné zvukové struktury.

    „Pokouším se o abstraktní zobrazení světa kolem mne,“ přibližuje svůj poslední projekt sám tvůrce. „Sbírám zvuky všude, kudy chodím. Také se snažím tvořit vlastní zvuky a zvukový materiál z obou zdrojů pak začleňuji do sebe. Fascinují mne nekonečné možnosti využití jakéhokoliv hluku k vytvoření něčeho jako zvukového hologramu v posluchačově mysli.“

    Všech devět tracků (se stopáží od jedné do sedmi minut) se vyznačuje výraznou ambientní náladou. Zdánlivě homogenní tok, avšak sycený glitchovou hudbou a drony, působí proto jako rozžhavené magma. Stále se v něm něco děje. Jde však o strukturální mikrozměny. Ty jsou navíc umocněny Youngovým uměním nápaditě pracovat s dynamikou. Také dokáže zhušťovat strukturu až k noisovým minierupcím, jež tak nestačí drtit. Zvláště tam, kde využívá industriálních zvuků (Hewson Road, Lamys Sound And Light, East Bight Stones). Často jeho kompozice evokují revoluční práce dlouhých tónových souzvuků LaMonte Younga, což je nejpatrnější v úvodní Cricket Pitch a především v Belmont Transmitter, kde Young dosahuje až varhanních barev. Naopak ambientních poloh dociluje v titulní Common Pond, zvukové koláže z prostředí rybníka, Phil´s House a John´s Bike, sestavených ze zvuků, pocházejících z pracovních aktivit jeho sousedů. Závěrečná Observatory Roof zaujme zase velmi jemnou, mysteriózní náladou, jakýmsi kosmickým perlením v konfrontaci s lidskou technikou.