by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Energy Fields is the response of composer John Atkinson to climate change. Over four tracks it presents field recordings from September 2019 at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming.
Atkinson’s Bandcamp page describes ‘the largest coal-producing state in America, as well as a burgeoning hub for renewables and carbon capture. These sounds of electrical hums, shuddering coal mines, roaring refineries, and gently clanking wind turbines, along with groaning bison, chattering cranes, and other wildlife, are reshaped into four tracks of heavy drone that veer from anxiety to awe, and from anthropocentric to transcendent.’
What’s the music like?
At times, a riot of colour and activity – at other times reaching a zen level of calm. Spiritual Electricity switches on for a particularly bright opening, with sustained pitches and drones. It conjures up visions of dragonflies as the current passes through, before giving the impression of a radio drifting in and out of focus. Black Thunder has a darker, fragmented outlook, the same electronic fuzz now sounding sinister as it lurks in wait to quash any melodic cells.
By contrast Casper brings a lovely purity to its bright treble pitches, while World Wind is more obviously industrial in its outlook, but the workings are strangely comforting over a held drone and with hints of birdsong in the background. As a consonant harmony makes itself ever clearer, Atkinson’s music takes on a refreshing purity – and we are left with the chatter of the birds.
Does it all work?
Yes – in a very unhurried way, creating some vivid portraits of the Wyoming location. For immersive listening it is hard to rival.
Is it recommended?
It is. Escapism is an all-too common requirement in the music we consume these days, but John Atkinson ensures the trip is a deep and meaningful one.