Various Artists

Aquapelago: An Oceans Anthology


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Anthology introducing the first of a series of albums based on the concept of Aquapelago.

‘’ Since the earliest days of the planet there has been a rhythm of tides that creates coastal interzones where humans have foraged and pursued various livelihoods. Developing boats to fish from and technologies that enabled them to immerse themselves deep underwater, the aquatic realm has been one explored, experienced and imagined in various ways. In an effort to express the vitality and richness of this environment I coined the term aquapelago in 2012. The wordplay was deliberate. The neologism was designed to distinguish the liquid inbetweenness of this space from the dry, scattered, lands of archipelagos.

The concept of the aquapelago coalesced around themes taken from various places. Epeli Hau’ofa’s idea of an Oceanic “sea of islands’” was formative but a number of songs were also inspirational. Torres Strait islander Seaman Dan captivated me with his experiences of pearl diving in the Darnley Deeps in his song ‘Forty Fathoms’ and Norfolk Islander singer Kath King imaged how sea-turtles might have experienced ecological change in her song ‘Tech me how fer lew’. Other reflections on watery realms also appealed. Debussy’s solo piano piece ‘La cathédrale engloutie’ soundtracked me as I researched myths of lost Lyonesse while Mike Cooper’s Kiribati, an ambient exoticist album about the imperilled archipelago (recently re-released on Discrepant), caused me to reflect on the social and cultural impact of sea level rise before that topic became a high-profile concern.

This compilation album takes the concept of the aquapelago into new depths and breaches it on fresh shores. The tracks are soaked with the aquatic. Bassy sonorities boom as if heard deep underwater. Bubbly textures breach the surface, water drips and seabirds soar high above waves. Sugai Kei samples fragments of text concerning the Ningen, a fantastic humanoid/whale that reflects the ‘aquapelagic imaginary’ of modern Japan and its preoccupation with industrial whaling. Andrew Pekler continues the orientation of his Phantom Islands project - a sonic atlas of imaginary places - with a soundscape as if heard by a swimmer just offshore, mixing sounds of the island and the sea together. Mike Cooper’s sonic reflection on Hong Kong’s Lamma Island is similar, combining the island’s ubiquitous barking dogs with the slurp of waves on rocky shores, conjuring a languorous time before Chinese crackdowns on the territory.

Taking another tack, the Dead Mauriacs gleefully water-ski through collage of tropical island exoticisms, replete with glitchy orientalism, while Babau combines skittering idiophone melodies with resonant glissandi. Vica Pacheco moves between dense and airy sounds, as if crossing between surf lines and the space above. Yannkick Dauby’s track is also imbued with in-betweenness, evoking ambient sounds heard through a ship’s hull. Sculpture’s ‘Froth Surfer’ realises its title, with bubbling sounds and rhythms that evoke Hawaiian surfing filtered through layers of time and distance. Reminding us of the shore necessary for aquapelagic spaces, Franceso Cavaliere and Tomoko Sauvage’s composition anchors the album, centred around shaken rhythms and resonant ringing tones and drones.

Taken together, the album sketches the contours of the aquapelago as it might be imagined and conjured in sound – an endless oceanic realm that laps on to beaches and crashes against cliffs. The performers navigate this space under alternately starry and cloudy skies, orientating themselves with sounds, textures and sonic samples of their terrestrial homes while we float with them. ‘’
Philip Hayward December 2021
    Release Date: 28 Sep 22 Cat No: CREP90