“Sound has always been an integral part of ritual. The shared listening experience can give a sense of community, of synchronised brainwaves and collective movement.”
So says David Fyans (Broken20 art director, aka Erstlaub) in the programme notes for his new audiovisual release on Broken20, ‘The Somnambulist’s Field Guide’. The programme notes exist because the piece is borne of a live performance-based installation, utilising immersive sculptural audio and meditative, hypnotic video in order to create a magickal space within which the collective listener, as a single organism, may embrace a sense of ‘otherness’, meditate on the spacial and psychological qualities of sound, and traverse dense and varied landscapes, conjured from the absence of silence.
As Broken20’s art director, Fyans is responsible for constructing the design aesthetic of the label. On ‘The Somnambulist’s Field Guide’ he builds on his previous audiovisual work such as ‘Marconi’s Shipwreck’ (bk20_ 08), this time presenting the visual aspect of the work as a slow-moving celestial presence, its landscape gradually shifting and pulsing in an unnerving endless ripple. The piece has been brewing for two years prior to this DVD/digital incarnation and has manifested in various forms - previously, drowning a gallery in full blackout with the audience breathing in an incense of Mugwort and lounging on cushions in a deeply meditative ritual state. It has also been performed straightish (although with Fyans challenging himself and his narrative by performing the sections in a chance order).
The Somnambulist’s Field Guide takes on its largest installation on September 1st, 2016 at CCA in Glasgow as part of Cryptic’s endlessly challenging and diverse programme of productions. During this performance, the projection will take place ‘in the round’ on the floor in the centre of the space, providing a focal point of sorts to the ‘ritual’ that acts as a mandla for the audience to share their experiences around. Sonically, the piece drifts through discrete sections over the duration of its seventy-plus minutes in the manner of Fyans’ previous works, each section blending into the next. This makes for a deeply transitory experience; the listener does not suddenly find themselves thrown into new territory, rather realises that they are no longer on familiar ground and must take in and process their current surroundings in the drift.
As conceptually rooted as Fyans’ work ever is, the piece also displays a reverence for the deep and dusty grooves of Basic Channel and other acolytes of submerged/degraded audio such as Huerco S, Loscil and Tim Hecker.
David Fyans is an artist and freelance producer/designer/technician who deals in sound, performance, installation, text and moving images to convey the conceptual ideas behind his work. His main influences lean towards subconscious interventions, mysticism, psychogeography, extra-dimensional and liminal spaces, and ruminations on time and our understanding of it. He performs sculptural audio, ritual performances and improvised works regularly as Erstlaub and under his own name on Broken20, Highpoint Lowlife and Moving Furniture amongst others.