Áine O'Dwyer/Graham Lambkin - Green Ways (2CD)
A collaboration between Áine O'Dwyer and Graham Lambkin. A unique sound document originally envisioned as a sound map of Ireland, collecting and composing with live recordings from performances in Doon, Dungarvan, Plaistow, Shoreditch, Singo & Stratford, using song, sound, spoken word, extraneous, ambient recordings and abstract and unidentifiable elements. Double-CD, six panel digipak, design by Áine O'Dwyer/Graham Lambkin.
For lossless (16/44) files, go to this page.
1. One and One is One (8:59)
2. One and One is Two (1:57)
3. One and One is Three (4:00)
4. The Mushroom Field (4:54)
5. Greenways (9:14)
6. Laughter, Laughing (1:43)
7. Expatriate Union (4:33)
8. Wings To Fly (2:45)
1. Wings To Fly (1:56)
2. The Old Brigado (1:38)
3. Down by the Sally Gardens (3:37)
4. The Â£500 Whistle (3:54)
5. Metallurgy (3:54)
6. Rain Star (6:05)
7. Beeaf for the Craic (2:54)
8. Night Music (10:55)
9. The Medicine Man (5:10)
(released November 24, 2018)
mastered by Taku Unami
design by Áine O'Dwyer and Graham Lambkin
layout by Matthew Revert
produced by Jon Abbey
with special thanks to Tom Coffey
Green Ways documents a collection of live recordings, drawn from in situ performances given in Doon, Dungarvan, Plaistow, Shoreditch, Singö and Stratford across 2018. It celebrates the filíocht of rural and urban acoustic environments with a playful economy of means, and offers a special salute to the rich heritage of Carnahalla.
Bill Meyer, Dusted
Green Ways is the first recorded artifact of the ongoing sonographic partnership of Londoner Áine O’Dwyer and Graham Lambkin, most recently of London after sojourns in Folkestone and Poughkeepsie, which began with a concert in Brooklyn at the end of 2016. In 2018 the duo went to Ireland, O’Dwyer’s home turf, to record the sounds of places that meant something to her. On their own, both parties’ work makes liberal but not exclusive use of field recordings. O’Dwyer’s Music for Church Cleaners used them to capture the tensions and rhythms of place and community, and one person’s interactions with them during a season of playing the pipe organ. With Jason Lescalleet, Lambkin has made emotionally resonant work out of the literal sounds of home. But on Amateur Doubles, he trolled us all with two LP sides that documented a drive with some French synth music on the car stereo. Yes, it made clear that the artist’s life and work are one; and while I admittedly was not especially moved by that statement, no, you can’t have my copy of the thing. Lambkin may have several strategies for getting under your skin, but he always finds a way.
The first disc opens quietly, with the duo’s voices making small sounds to find the measure of a room. At some point the masculine voice splits into an electronically distorted double; did this happen on the spot, or after the fact? How faithful is this document, or should that question be faithful to what? They’re not telling, but they’ll give you the chance to ask. In the third track, the exploration of space becomes more direct. Someone tests the keys of a piano, some of which sound notes while others just go thunk. Moving on, you get a pocket-stashed microphone’s perspective of a mushroom hunt, the sound of approaching machinery, O’Dwyer throat singing in a tiled public space, and a murkily registered lecture whose delivery seems quite undeserving of the enthusiastic applause that greets it. As you head into the second disc people sing old folk songs, mull over the age of boulders, and a dog makes it clear that the sonographers are treading where they should not go.
This music emits a myriad of small signals. Some are pretty cryptic, while others reasonably clear. Ireland is a place where you can hear the intersection of past and present. Traffic and crockery sound about the same there as they do in your neighborhood. You can find some marvelous sounds in the great outdoors, but also some pretty mundane ones. The prominent bemusement factor aligns this Green Ways more with Lambkin’s back catalog than O’Dwyer’s, but it’s definitely a joint endeavor woven together from his “it is what it is, but what is it?” aesthetic and her attunement to the history and relationships that are embedded in unscripted sound.
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
Graham Lambkin doesn't make things easy for your hapless reviewer. More than most practitioners in this general area of music, Lambkin, both on record and live, can appear almost artless, haphazard, indulgent. He's not the one you'd take your skeptical friend to see perform. The thing is, most of the time what he does works and often enough works fantastically. There's the old line about Thelonious Monk, "He even walks musical." It's a subjective thing, to be sure, but there are certain musicians who, to my ears, have such an inherent and deep musicality that almost anything they produce sounds good. Monk would be a fine example; Don Cherry, for me, is another. In visual art, it's something I think about when viewing Rauschenberg or Twombly: everything just, at the very least, looks good. Lambkin has something of this as well.
I'd only previously heard bits and pieces of O'Dwyer's work, organ-oriented music dealing with extended tones and shifting environments. I may well have missed other aspects of her music but the current release certainly fits comfortably within parameters established by Lambkin, which is to say "casual" field recordings with often woolly sound sourced from the mundane. It's difficult for me to separate out O'Dwyer's contributions from Lambkin's, though likely not so important. But even from someone who released a double LP of prog CDs playing in his car, this one pushes things. For me, it succeeds wonderfully, but be forewarned.
It's a double CD, divided into tracks (17 of them) and seems to be thematically based upon Lambkin's move to O'Dwyer's home country of Ireland. It opens with vague hums, shifting to forceful blowing sounds, back and forth, the humming morphing to primal, almost-grunts, an odd proto-language. Slaps, skin on skin, hardcore patty-cake, extremely sharp. These slaps transform disconcertingly into applause from a smallish but enthusiastic crowd--was the preceding a live performance? I don't know...Slaps reappear, this time hitting water and lead to notes on a muted, possibly ancient piano, struck metal (all in a blurred haze) and then a recurring theme--a conversation with a farmer (?) discussing plants. It sounds like the microphone is regularly brushing against rough material--denim or corduroy--in a rhythm that implies walking; an amazing sound-field between that and the voices (O'Dwyer and an older man). The (more or less) title track. 'Greenways', perhaps comes closest to an electro-acoustic composition, with subtle squeaks and bleeps mixed into a variety of overlaid field recordings featuring running engines, quite strong. A spare musical interlude, oddly titled, 'Laughter, Laughing' is heard, a low string--guitar? harp?--is plucked repeatedly, quickly. A public gathering that seems to be a memorial of sorts, super-immersive as if the listener is nestled in the front pocket of Lambkin's shirt. The disc closes with a man discussing old Irish history, knives, Vikings and metal to appreciative murmurs from our pair, pouring drinks, banging about--very intimate--the man breaking into song, 'Carrickfergus' if my research is correct.
Disc Two continues in the same scene, Lambkin and O'Dwyer joining in. An accordion--or squeezebox of some kind--surfaces on 'The Old Brigado, accompanied by jangling metal, in a sort of fractured jig, again with the harsh hand claps. Things remain suspiciously musical with the soft, gracious piano introduction to 'Down by the Sally Gardens', albeit paired with snuffling, cows and other woozy ambience. Singing cows (somewhat echoing those hums from the first track on the other disc), dripping water, abruptly interrupted by a shrill dog. Another Irish tune on a whistle amidst an outdoor crowd, discussion in a field between O'Dwyer and, I think, the same fellow who talked about plants, discussing capstones and tombs, bats and swallows. A small child singing, a plane overhead, a squeaky swing-set (?), cars, this focussed, curiously chosen eddy of sounds. Our singer returns on 'Beeaf for the Craic', pausing and commenting, struck matches heard; very moving and, again, intimate to an almost uncomfortable degree. 'Night Music' is the longest track at some eleven minutes and, for me, the most impressive, a mysterious layering of dark sounds, notably some roughly rubbed metal, as though someone is bowing a large piece of corrugated steel, motor engines, unnameable scratchings and scrabblings and much, much more. A piece of great power and presence and all the more inscrutable for that. We end at a table, friends toasting each other over drinks, alien buzzes flitting about, talking relaxedly about tobacco and catkin, the recording clipped and repeated at a point or two. It ends mid-sentence.
A unique work, part found poetry, part found sounds, a large part magical/musical choices.
Jack Davidson, Noise Not Music
Disclaimer: Please listen to Green Ways before you read this, if at all possible. In my opinion, the album is best experienced when one forms one’s own interpretations of the sounds. But I can’t tell you what to do.
I’m fairly certain I will remember the first time I heard Green Ways for the rest of my life. When a double CD by two of my favorite artists on my favorite label was announced, it’s not surprising that it was one of my most anticipated releases this year. I was careful not to try to predict what the music would sound like; Graham Lambkin and Áine O’Dwyer are both artists who subvert my expectations almost as a rule, always giving me what I didn’t know I wanted. But even if you don’t have expectations, Green Ways will surprise you. Crafted with care, reverence, and an inordinate amount of love, it is one of the few albums that I can call a truly unique experience. As Lambkin says in his fascinating interview with The Quietus, Green Ways was originally envisioned as a sound map of Ireland, O’Dwyer’s home country. Though they intended to “[go] over to Ireland and record in these places that meant something to her,” the album ended up as much more, not only imbued with the sentiment and memories attached to the recordings but also with new emotions created with abstract performances and the “filíocht of rural and urban acoustic environments.”
The opening suite of tracks, “One and One Is One” through “…Is Three,” are immediately mysterious. “…Is One” begins with a group vocal performance, beginning as a collectively produced drone that transforms into something much more rhythmic. It and almost all the other tracks create a palpably physical sound space; you can feel the vibrations of the creaking wood floor, the syrupy acoustics of the vocalizations, that overwhelming but pleasant warmth from sitting amidst a large group of people. The way in which Green Ways puts emphasis on the concept and feeling of ‘place’ is truly incredible, from trapping the listener atop the surface tension of the water in “One and One Is Two” to immersing them in the movement of hiking and kneeling to collect mushrooms and other herbs. “Greenways” is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard, swirling a gorgeous, natural drone around the stereo recorder…but I could also say the same thing about “Expatriate Union,” which takes that powerful sensation of being in a crowd even further, or “The £500 Whistle,” a mundane but sublime walk through what sounds like a busy town square, or “Down by the Sally Gardens,” when a distorted dog bark rips through comfortable rural domesticity, or… you get the idea.
But ‘place’ is not only conveyed physically; the voices and actions of actual people are important too. Intimate singing of traditional folk songs placed throughout the album, as well as snippets of conversations and the soft cacophony of crowds. These yield amazing moments as well, like on “Metallurgy,” when O’Dwyer asks their companion how long he thinks “that boulder” has been there, to which he nonchalantly, “about 6000 years.” It’s a rare verbal communication of the themes and ideas that Green Ways explores so effectively without any words at all, conveying that deep undercurrent of age and history that runs under the Emerald Isle, a place that simultaneously exists in the present and so far in the past.
I could go on; really, I could. Green Ways is an indescribably rich album, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully enumerate all the things it makes me feel. I’m just so grateful that it exists.