Sea Trials – Sea Trials

Cassette recordings eroded by extreme heat and saltwater are the material basis for this debut by Sea Trials (one Ian McCarthy, also musically active as Romart and Wilhelm). The music originates in synthesiser pieces ranging from drones to more boisterous passages, as well as acoustic instruments such as piano. The subjection of these recordings physically to the elements, resulting in a roughly decayed and murky musical bed, seems to have been in aid of conveying a longing for the ocean.

I love a good sea-themed album. This one, with its thick, saturated texture, reminds me a little of Xela’s The Dead Sea. Heavy mids evoke the turbid depths of the sea, or rough waters felt from the refuge of a cabin, while the odd stretch of hiss might suggest washes of spume ‘neath the vessel. The centrepiece, ‘A Turning Point, A Wave Reveals’, is a fine wad of seasick melancholy. For me, it’s here that all McCarthy’s techniques, from the tape erosion to his compositional restraint, most successfully combine.

The album is no uninterrupted journey, for numerous tracks jump cut from one to the next, as if modelled after diary entries committed hastily between weather spells. For an album of this genre, this is an unusual and well-judged way of keeping the underlying concept intriguing throughout. A really enjoyable effort overall and a standout entry in the Whitelabrecs catalogue.

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