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Jim Haynes Kamchatka

by Lisa Thatcher
February 2013


Kamchatka is one of the most remote parts of Russia, so remote it's called "Siberia of Siberia." The area houses just over 200 volcanoes, 30 of which are currently active. It is because of the remoteness of this land, Jim Haynes tells us, and its location being as far away as you can be and still be in Russia, that the back of the classroom is designated "Kamchatka" by Russian school children. Fascinated, and in a way spellbound, by the virtually uninhabitable, extreme landscape, the California-based sound artist fictionalizes a portrait of Kamchatka in two compositions on this disc.

The first track is 21 reworked minutes of time Haynes spent dialing into shortwave radio bands in his area. The recording reaches out with delicate tendrils, finding with the slightest of grasps various snippets of noise. Played loud, it's a beautiful and fascinating recording imbued with the tenuousness of distance both physical and seraphic. There is no way of knowing what one is listening to; crackles, pops and an obstinate sibilation vibrate and swell through a gripping listening experience. Haynes worked hard to record these sounds, but the artistry is in his reworking and combining all that he found into the throbbing blister of perpetual sound he has titled "Lilith."

The second track, entitled "Rocks Hills Plains," is longer at just less than 30 minutes. In this piece Haynes has collected sounds from a film project he made in collaboration with Paul Clipson, who contributed images from a visit to Russia. Pulsing with all the feelings of distance of the first track, this one is different in that it is overlain with what sounds like heavy-booted footsteps in the snow. It's eerie, giving the impression of marching relentlessly forward toward the cadaverous unknown on Kamchatka's isolated, lava-spewing plains. The length and the growing discordant swell beneath the restless march leaven the sound with trepidation and dismay as the listener is carried forward into a monstrous nothingness. Eventually the boot steps stop, and the vibrating swells rise up, immuring the listener in a dark presage. And this is what Jim Haynes wants to convey - exactly what, he doesn't know, and exactly how that might feel.