Radio Cegeste · three inclements

Radio Cegeste · three inclements

“The wires dance in the wind of the noise our poems make. The noise without an audience. Because the poems were written for ghosts.

The ghosts the poems were written for are the ghosts of the poems. We have it second hand. They cannot hear the noise they have been making.

Yet it is not a simple process like a mirror or a radio.They try to give us circuits to see them, to hear them.”

- Jack Spicer

three inclements was recorded by Sally Ann McIntyre while in residency on Kapiti Island. The album is based around three outdoor shortwave tunings in kapiti landscapes, with the radio receiver acting as a listener to a largely ‘empty’ field, mirroring and mixed with Sally’s own listening to and recording of the acoustic space of the island.


Radio Cegeste is the pseudonym of New Zealand sound and radio artist Sally Ann McIntyre. Her new release on the Consumer Waste label was composed from recordings made on the island of Kapiti, about three miles off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Across the three tracks, McIntyre’s interest in sound and radio as a means of holding loose strands of historical, social and environmental narratives together in the hand is worked out in a variety of ways, with most of the sounds coming from shortwave and FM radio transmissions and field recordings.

An island residency presents the artist with an opportunity to absorb wildness and remoteness and shape it into an intelligible form, to translate otherness into a language that can be shared with those back on the mainland — in short, to colonise. McIntyre’s interests lie elsewhere. Island sounds saturate these three pieces, but they are always intertwined with other elements that counteract the immediacy of the field recordings with a temporal and spatial diffusion. Radio emanates from a point, but extends in all directions. The sounds of Kapiti are broadcast across a transmission gap — historical, geographic, perceptual, semiotic — that turns and transforms them.

First track “a lagoon considered against its archival image” is full of hiss and static, with few recognisable environmental or musical sounds, yet its deliberate stop-starting and movement around the stereo field has a strong sense of performance about it — this is the track in which McIntyre’s own presence feels most clearly discernible. This presence, and presentness, begins to wane on second track “study for lighthouse”, despite the sounds of human voices and snatches of music; only a pattern of five clicks suggests deliberate structure. A violin sounds on final track “1897, detail (song for Richard Henry)”, yet it is almost as if the bow is being blown across the strings by the wind, tone and melody arising completely by accident; music in the absence of humans, broadcast from another time perhaps. Radio interference becomes musical, and musical instruments become nature.

On her website the artist writes astutely about her experiences on Kapiti and her engagement with its various histories. While the specific content she refers to is not immediately discernible in the music of “three inclements”, there is nevertheless a sense in which the island remains remote, in both time and space, even as its sounds rise and fall in our ears. An island is an elsewhere, like the past, like nature; McIntyre wards off hungry mainland ears with gaps and indiscernibilities, not weaving them into nets but tuning them, turning them in her hand.

Behind Radio Cegeste we find one Sally Ann McIntyre, who plays shortwave, field recordings, FM field improvisations, VLF and broken violin. I don't think I heard her work before. In March to June 2012 she was an artist in residence of the Kapiti Island Nature Reserve and recorded the three pieces captured on this disc. I think McIntyre went outside with her various receivers of whatever ghostly transmissions that could be captured, and sat down in a field to capture both these transmissions, as well anything that happened in the field at that time. Only in '1879, detail (Song For Richard Henry)' we hear the broken violin - I think. In the other pieces things seem to be dealing more with those transmissions sounds. Not unlike the work of say Stephen McGreevey, things, buzz, sparkle and pop with electricity here. It makes some very nice music, quite mysterious in a way, especially when the broken violin - distant as it may seem - is used. With it's twenty-nine minutes its sadly a bit on the short end. I wouldn't have minded an extra piece or two, preferably with the broken violin in a bigger role of some kind. But if what I think is true - recorded out in the open, played in real time - then this is a nicely fresh look at field recordings in combination with electricity.

I've been wanting to hear more of Sally McIntyre's (Radio Cegeste) work since her collaboration with Lee Noyes a couple of years back and this one satisfies that desire quite well. Three pieces, each fairly short (total disc time less than a half hour) and concise. The titles make one curious about the contents. "a lagoon considered against its archival image", for instance, a series of statics amidst thunder and rain (one of the inclements), the former tearing jagged holes in the fabric of weather. Some faint beeps (shortwave? two sets of four tones, repeating) can be gleaned through the storm. A marvelous work. I get the sense of more radio involvement in "study for a lighthouse", a bristling sound essay full of both intense activity and plenty of air, the sonorities several plies deep, with a series of five, sharp, hard "taps" repeatedly establishing a harsh surface while hisses, gurgling and perhaps faint voices occupy strata beneath; entirely absorbing. In "1897 (song for Richard Henry), McIntyre unsheathes her "broken violin", wending it through wooly masses of static, birds and (there must be a better name for it) the "woo-woo" you get on shortwaves, normally a sound I'm not terribly fond of (too much baggage) but here, it just manages to fit in. The violin is dark and a bit mournful, evoking an off-tune sea shanty, perhaps, though that thought might be influenced by the preceding nautical imagery.

Fine, fine work.

These three compositions are based around different outdoor shortwave radio tunings, recorded by New Zealand sound artist Sally Ann McIntyre while in residency on the island of Kapiti, off the west coast of the North Island - and each is imbued with a sense of remoteness and loneliness. The shortwave signals are populated with recordings of thunderstorms, water, wind and gulls, into which McIntyre weaves high, thin, almost imperceptible electronic tones, tactile clicks and pops. The effect is like sheltering on a rainswept hillside in a tent, discerning the difference between environmental sounds outside and intimate noises within. The final piece, combining a crackling bonfire with tentative figures traced on so-called broken violin, sounds like the most desolate camping trip of all time.

Après deux superbes collaborations avec Lee Noyes, l'artiste néozélandaise Sally Ann McIntyre, alias Radio Cegeste, propose son premier disque solo sur le label anglais Consumer Waste, un disque poétiquement intitulé three inclements (the ocean does not mean to be listened to). Trois pièces d'environ dix minutes enregistrées lors d'une résidence sur une petite île proche de la Nouvelle-Zélande.

Radio Cegeste a utilisé pour ces pièces différentes radios qui captent plusieurs rangs de fréquences, ainsi qu'un violon cassé. Au bord de la plage et dans des réserves naturelles, Radio Cegeste improvise et manipule des fréquences courtes, moyennes et très basses. La radio est un outil largement utilisé dans les musiques expérimentales depuis plusieurs décennies maintenant. Mais ce n'est qu'avec Radio Cegeste que j'ai eu l'impression de découvrir tous ses potentiels. Sally Ann McIntyre utilise la radio comme un instrument complexe, elle l'utilise comme un outil à deux facettes, une première abstraite et bruitiste, et une seconde chaleureuse, humaine et mélodique. La radio forme la voix de l'homme, de la technologie, de la communication. C'est aussi un instrument de diffusion musicale. C'est humain et organisé, et en même temps, quelque chose de chaotique et d'aléatoire, quelque chose d'une vie souterraine, est présent dans toutes les fréquences en stand-by, toutes les fréquences inutilisées où les courants électriques ne diffusent que des bruits blancs de toutes sortes.

Radio Cegeste utilise ainsi ces informations sonores qui donnent des indications géographiques, sociales et historiques pour dialoguer avec une terre naturelle, neutre, vierge. La technologie et les médias font irruptions dans un environnement étranger, et Radio Cegeste utilise principalement les données les plus chaotiques de cette technologie pour dialoguer avec l'île où elle réside. Une réserve naturelle, une femme munie de radios et d'un vieux violon. Les éléments clés pour un dialogue artistique entre la nature, la technologie, l'espace vierge d'une réserve naturelle et l'espace saturé de la communication. Les fréquences radios reflètent l'activité humaine et se trouvent en contraste avec l'activité naturelle riche et chaotique, en contraste et en parallèle, car à travers le filtre des fréquences radios, les activités humaines (technologies et communications) semblent aussi riches et chaotiques, aussi saturées que les activités naturelles (vents, marées, chants d'oiseaux, etc.).

La dernière chose que je voudrais noter à propos de l'utilisation des radios chez Sally Ann McIntyre, c'est l'approche musicale et mélodique qu'elle travaille depuis plusieurs années. Les fréquences radios semblent autant d'éléments mélodiques que les cordes de son violon, elle les aborde avec finesse, chaleur, poésie, et musicalité. Elle joue sur les timbres et sur les hauteurs de la même manière qu'avec les harmoniques de son violon, et c'est ce qui fait toute la beauté des installations radiophoniques de Radio Cegeste. Très beau travail encore.

Playfulness with spatiality is immediately evident in these three recordings (around 29 minutes in total) that were captured and performed in multiple locations in a nature reserve on Kapiti Island, New Zealand. The area is famous for its high cliffs and is considered an ornithological site of great significance. Despite such locations there are few birds to be heard in these tracks and when they are present it is always in the distance. There is a broader context at play here: recorded all in one day as part of a residency program, the artist made use of an old multiband maritime radio as a receiver, scanning the country and the coast to channel environmental harmonies and recording using a variety of microphones. The work considers the idea of signal and relates historical methods of communication to the evocative sense of a place that has suffered exploitation but also conservation and restoration. The tracks could interpreted as an overwhelming urge to surrender in relation to nature: however it is the liminal regions – seemingly empty natural spaces – that still require accurate modulation in order to discover their secrets and essence.

Fru gît,
petit frugiv
ore dans le vent fr
oid qui s’
ensable – fruit
d’ogives mor
tes attablées,

assec des verres,
des culs d’bou
teilles d’or
surgisant le fer
où l’o
rage ampli-

Fru piaule
ke-fss remplit
l’spectre qu’a
de Mars en plage

Petit hongre,
tu gommes le br
uit des vages, euh ?
des vagues nues sans br
uit où j’nage un peu
gnan-gnan façon
bloc soviétique.

Et dans la crique, homme
aux mains d’fille,
Tu encages l’esclave
dans tes glouglous ;
cide p’têt nidé
en brindilles Salomon

Qui lèvent vents d’Est
Pis lacs mazout que
Nos femmes laveront.

Sally Ann McIntyre enregistre l’île Kapiti en violon cassé et radios fantômes. Mi-field recording mi-noise (les grésillements et résidus de fréquences fm), on trouve dans Three Inclements un quasi-rythme envoûtant. Tout y est noyé : le violon en vient à sonner comme un vieux saxophone et la mer comme une baignoire, le bruit se mêle au sable humide et aux rafales de vent. Les piafs m’y avalent, les parasites déchaînés agissent comme dissolvants dans un délire infranautique – les poissons s’ouvrent et j’entre en terre immergée ; les dunes grises de l’hiver Pacifique régurgitées dans le chant des oiseaux jazz.