Seetyca – Urbane Raume

vzusdw.org (vzusdw 0012 amb 006), 2014

Stepping away from the huge drones that dominate most of his work, Seetyca puts an emphasis on field recordings on the 24-track netlabel release, Urbane Raume. Sourced by walking through the German city of Leipzing-Lindenau with recording equipment activated, Seetyca has created something that’s less an album of music and more an experiment in sample manipulation. If you’re looking for the drones of Seetyca releases such as The Luminous Deep, Nemeton, or Bleakscapes, you won’t find them here, but this is undoubtedly his work, and one worth a listen.

Seetyca claims to have added no additional sounds to the field recordings of the city; this is no sample-enhanced urban-ambient study like Cities Last Broadcast. Urbane Raume is a two-hour tour of a city, filtered through an electronic lens; even the cover art shows a recognizable building facade, but distorted. As you might expect, given the concept, this is a hit-and-miss listening experience that is most notable as a technical exercise; it simply doesn’t have the depth or character to engage on a profound level.

That’s not to say, however, that such moments don’t exist here. “The Tunnel” is brought to alien life through displaced echoes and a sense of vastness; this is the closest Seetyca comes in this work to his trademark monolithic drones. Through synthetic processing, the German tunnel becomes a wind-swept corridor in some dreamlike city, and it’s impossible to not get swept away from the mundane into something in the far-flung corners of your imagination. Likewise, the sounds of the underground train on “Bahnhof Lindenau” become a hymn to the triumph of human construction – think of it, a high-speed train that runs underground! Our coal-shoveling, steam-driven ancestors would not believe it.

Unfortunately, most of Urbane Raume does not feature the same level of immersion. Many of the tracks are simply looped samples of common everyday street noise: car horns, barking dogs, the murmur of crowds, distant bells tolling, and so on. These tracks feel mechanical, which may be the point in a critical or metaphorical sense, but for a listening experience, they are somewhat less interesting. Tracks such as “Zoo” and “The Lake” seem like missed opportunities to produce something similarly surreal, along the lines of Tor Lundvall’s album Empty City, but perhaps this approach was not Seetyca’s intent. And yet, Urbane Raum feels surreal while sounding familiar, and despite its lengthy running time, it has enough variety to keep it from feeling overly repetitive.

It is admirable that Seetyca attempts different concepts within his already large and growing catalog of releases. While Urbane Raume does not rank with his best for me, it was an interesting experiment to hear. I wish that Seetyca had done a bit more processing of the samples to move the field recordings into stranger territories, but for those searching for a sound experiment on the fringes, Urbane Raume will be a welcome experience.

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