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Baikal Ice

by Peter Cusack
ReR Cuneiform , Silver Spring, MD, 2004
CD, ReR PC2, $14.00
Distributor’s website: http://www.waysidemusic.com/default.asp.

Reviewed by Stefaan Van Ryssen
Hogeschool Gent
Jan Delvinlaan 115, 9000 Gent, Belgium


For over three decades, Peter Cusack has been active in improvised and electronic music, among others with Steve Beresford and David Toop, in the famous 'Alterations' group. He also collected sounds and soundings from all nooks and corners of the earth, meanwhile giving evidence of his very enviable degree of sensibility, sense——both common and artistic——and imagination. Indeed, it is a rare gift for someone to be able to cross borders, to defy set rules and to transcend categories without going to extremes, without showing off or causing irritation. Cusack has been doing all this and maybe more without losing his audience. He doesn’t care to wave his artistic integrity like a banner on a battlefield because he seems to know that, when the smoke has risen, he will be one of those who are still standing. His recordings have been judiciously chosen, and he has unobtrusivingly, patiently and unassumingly applied the highest standards of self-criticism, showing the many aspects of his craftsmanship and his intense love of sound.

Baikal Ice is another example of Cusack's subtlety and finesse. After making his first collection of sounds from the English countryside, the Sahara, and a London guitar shop on Where Is the Green Parrot?, he set out to record the sound of the extraordinary Lake Baikal in Siberia. He took a trip to the lake in April/May 2003, "…specifically to record the ice break up. Although the melting process takes weeks there are a few days when the ice finally disappears and the lake becomes open water again. It is a very spectacular and moving transformation. I have not seen natura operating on such a vast scale before. It was a magnificent and humbling experience" ("Press Release").

This album illustrates the sounds of the ice melting and of the shelves breaking and creaking. But there are other sounds as well: a girl bursting into song on the train, a telephone engineer falling through the ice, the rumbling of the ferry and the village children playing with the local PA system. In other words: you didn't know Siberia was so beautiful.




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