Traveling changes perspectives. Despite the risk of forgetting to pack an essential, it serves to show how cluttered your life may have become. New experiences, vistas, tastes, and smells take precedence over the routine sound-tracking of days.
Music can help define that perspective. It becomes infused with jumping time-zones, experiencing strange new weather, or seeing an alien landscape as the brain grapples with an unfamiliar city layout, language, or culture.
Hotel Record somehow feels like eavesdropping, but it’s abstract enough to be universal and welcoming.
Hotel Record, presented by Canadian Crys Cole and Australian Oren Ambarchi, relates to ever-changing horizons. As two collaborating musicians (and as a couple), this notion of endless global travel and music being drawn from the experience is expressed over four extended tracks made in Australia, Sweden, the U.S., and Thailand. It’s the couple’s second collaboration as a duo following the 2014 album Sonja Henies Vei 31.
I initially felt the album was like a document of a holiday, but a brief chat with Ambarchi reveals it was made as the pair zig-zagged around the world, playing live, collaborating, and recording. Having individual commitments, and all the understandable complexity of a long-distance relationship, the two obviously jump at the opportunity to record together whenever and wherever they can.
Tiny pixels of gamelan-sounding guitar, motorbikes, and a shifting mass of insects and frogs straddle the blurred line between reality and electronics.
Italo Calvino’s wonderful short story Under the Jaguar Sun tracks a couple’s relationship through an exploration of food as they travel through Mexico. Hotel Record occupies a similar space, but is organized and communicated in considered, interwoven sound strategies. Hotel Record somehow feels like eavesdropping, but it’s abstract enough to be universal and welcoming.
The first track Call Myself opens with a beautiful minimal keyboard figure. There’s nothing other than warm and gradual blooming of simple sounds in the opening minutes. It becomes more complex and sound starts to crawl around the speakers. Cole’s wordless vocals, fed through a Buchla synth, roll around as the volume increases. This is unhurried music, a widescreen soundtrack to a Yves Klein sky.
At just under 19 minutes, Francis Debacle (Uno) is the album’s strange centerpiece. It’s a fragmented experiment that Ambarchi tells me was made by “playing a card game through a Serge synth, and vocalizations we recorded in the shower and us cooking at home.”
The recording gives a sense of the duo’s desire to organize and construct sound from whatever means are to hand. The result is a strange clicking, water-dripping, human-voice-tracked, looping weather-front of sound.
Gentle glitches fall between Fennesz’s sunburnt Endless Summer with traces Kraftwerk’s balmy Ananas Symphonie…
Burrata is the shortest piece here, and in some ways it’s the busiest. Gentle glitches fall between Fennesz’s sunburnt Endless Summer with traces Kraftwerk’s balmy Ananas Symphonie (Pineapple Symphony). However, in place of the glorious pineapple, Cole and Ambarchi are celebrating the rich Italian cheese that gives this song its name. The vocal fragments reveal cut-ups of an email exchange between the couple: “having a great time” and “getting some R&R” float through the haze.
The final track Pad Phet Gob marries a tropical field-recording with various electro-acoustic splinters of sound. Tiny pixels of gamelan-sounding guitar, motorbikes, and a shifting mass of insects and frogs blur the line between reality and electronics. Cole’s whispering rolls around in stereo as more processed sounds form.
A quick search reveals the title is in fact a spicy Thai frog dish. (As a vegetarian listener, I’d like to think this is an aural construction of the dish rather than a physical one.)
In the wrong hands, electronic music can sometimes fail to project warmth and emotion, but these are two definitive elements in this work. Hotel Record is a mysterious non-linear travelog – an adventure in intermittent wifi; of pointing microphones towards the trees; of connecting flights; of goodbyes and hellos.
Exactly where this transports the listener will depend on where they are in the world, and how familiar (or alien) the sounds might be.
Listening to this in Scotland, towards the end of a disappointingly cool and rainy summer, I can but dream…