Switched On – Arthur King: Changing Landscapes (Mina Las Pintadas) (AKP Recordings)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

The Changing Landscapes series has already reaped handsome sonic rewards for Arthur King, the multimedia project spearheaded by electronic craftsman Peter Walker.

He has already given us dispatches from the Utah desert, a farm in Iowa and the Isle of Eigg, but for this latest instalment King heads underground to a copper mine in Chile.

What’s the music like?

Descriptive and compelling. As in previous instalments, Arthur King uses field recordings of the mine’s machinery and environment, looking to get to the heart of its workings.

The mechanical processes are the ideal foil to a plethora of interesting melodic ideas, presented in rich and evocative colours. Because of the dark subject matter a lot of this music feels nocturnal, with the colour added by ticking machinery or sonorous brass instruments.

There is easy ambience to start with, and the machinery of the mine can be heard supporting the soft timbres of Gracias a San Lorenzo. Tierra Amarilla has evocative, nocturnal brass and scratchy, turntable derived percussion, the brass drawing a few parallels towards Jóhann Jóhannsson’s The Miner’s Hymns.

La Farola has a steady drip drip of percussion, but also operates on a wider sonic scope, allowing the ear to choose between the two – a familiar characteristic of this music Soon some solemn brass intonation can be heard, taking on a mournful discourse towards the end. A substantial track, it is compelling from start to finish. Caminando has soft tones but the ticking clock adds urgency and momentum.

Does it all work?

Consistently. Headphones reveal the wide range of sounds and textures, while the longer musical structures are very satisfying in the way they evolve and stretch out. The range of colours and breadth of imagination are also deeply impressive.

Is it recommended?

Yes – a fascinating aural portrait but also a powerful and evocative sequence of music. Once youve spent time in the Chilean mine, a deep dive into the rest of Arthur King’s output is highly recommended.

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