Symphonies of Dirt | Tarab’s An Incomplete yet Fixed Idea

TarabIncompleteYetFixedIdea(Aposiopèse, 2017)

There are field recordists and then there are those who will crawl around in the dirt for that perfect sound. Since his debut album from 2004, Surfacedrift, Tarab’s Eamon Sprod has been fine-tuning his unique brand of highly immersive, geographically targeted sound work. Contrary to your typical passive recordist, Sprod likes to get up close with his environments, his sound design often necessitating a physical engagement—you might even say, relationship—with his locales. However compelling, this engagement can be fleeting, resulting in “half narratives” that when strung together tell the story of a vagabond’s unquenched desire to free the sounds trapped within this earth. It’s no wonder he once titled an album, I’m Lost, because he’d probably stay that way if he could.

Sprod’s sound palette has remained more or less the same over the years, and An Incomplete Yet Fixed Idea keeps on track. We’re graced with hissing fissures, nondescript rattlings and scrapings, the incessant buzz and churn of bygone industrial wares, symphonies of dirt, tactile grime, foraged sounds, abused sounds, and sounds of rain—we’ll leave it there but that’s just scraping the surface (sounds of scraped surfaces!). Compositionally, this is one of Tarab’s tightest, the transitions between his fragmented narratives feeling all the more succinct. An important factor in Tarab’s music is juxtaposition, and Sprod only seems to be getting better at it. The quick, frenetic energy of his more spastic recordings balance out with cavernous drones and booming rain, to the extent that after it’s all done one can almost make out the topography of the artist’s sonic playground. This is but a testament to Sprod’s command of the visceral capacity of environmental recordings.

The aforementioned recordings of rain feature regularly on An Incomplete Yet Fixed Idea, which is a phenomenon that I can’t imagine Sprod experiences too often in his native Australia, but who knows? The frequent return to rain punctuates the album with a gratifying sense of home, as if each time marks a new movement in the work, a new chapter in this story. As a very recognizable recording, the rain breaks up the two 20 minute tracks into something more digestible—it’s easy to lose all sense of time and direction when engrossed in a Tarab album. Ultimately, this is only one element in the complex sound world sculpted by Sprod. His recordings, though often fragmented and quick to expire, are the seed from which his compositions grow. On An Incomplete yet Fixed Idea, he’s proven himself once again.

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