Switched On – The Black Dog: Music For Dead Airports (Dust Science Recordings)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This provocative title of a new EP release from Sheffield duo The Black Dog refers all the way back to Brian Eno’s celebrated four-part ambient work, Music For Airports – and also to the much more recent Music For Real Airports, a successful album from the duo released in 2010.

Here they present four tracks of a deeply personal nature, lamenting the demise of Sheffield’s two attempts at building lasting airports. The recordings were, in the duo’s words, “written in Sheffield airports, car parks and on the land where both once stood, channelling what should have been, instead of the feverish nightmares they became. Once again we find ourselves reflecting on the difference and why it has to be so.”

What’s the music like?

Dark, but also comforting in its ambience. The personal connection comes across, too, especially if you listen with the names of the airports in mind. Each of the four tracks is spread over a broad canvas – appropriate, given the sprawling nature of the sites under musical observation.

Mother Of Mine (GLA Airport) is first, based on a drone but with a slow oscillation between two principal pitches in the mid-treble. The variety comes from the slowly shifting bass and the changing shape of the field recordings in the middle ground.

The template set, the EP moves on to SHF Is Dead, which carries more worrisome feelings within its sharper tones, accentuated by the steady tread of the kick drum, revealing a dub influence. The bleak canvas of ISA DSA is up next, a true drone that gradually reveals more colour and solace as it opens out. Finally Sleep Deprivation Holiday presents a wall of sound, a drone that sounds like operating machinery but which offers an ambience all of its own.

Does it all work?

Yes – the four tracks work well as a thought-provoking sequence, and though they are describing man-made architecture there is a good deal of emotion at their core.

Is it recommended?

It is. The Black Dog continue to draw strong links between music and architecture, revealing in the process the emotion that is often unspoken when we talk about functional buildings. There is a certain beauty in their work, dark but also rather majestic – and because of this, Music For Dead Airports leaves a subtle but lasting impact.

Listen & Buy

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