GD013 Psychogeographical Dip — Various

To order go to: Pogus Productions

The first release in a series of compilations based on the concept of psychogeographical recordings and the theory of the dérive among the artists (the various) assembled here. Musique concrète, electroacoustic and experimental music shape a psychogeographical map of the abandoned McCarren Park Play Center & Pool in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. The 74’ CD is packaged in a custom-designed wallet fold cover with images by Geoff Dugan. A blueline printed booklet insert contains graphics from each artist. Released in 1997.

Gen Ken Montgomery — “Washing the Hare”
Chop Shop — “Dry Hole”
Geoff Dugan — “Mirage”
Francisco López — untitled piece from McCarren Park
Sean Meehan — “Neglect”
Brian Conley — “Empty”
John Hudak — “Amniotic Suspension”
If Bwana — “Wednesday’s Miracles”
Pat Courtney — “Astoria Park Pool”

“Sound Projector,” by Ed Pinset

One of two great CDs compiled in NYC by Geoff Dugan. Both are supreme examples of environmental documentary recording I love so much, and they present little difficulty in being processed as glorious music. This record focusses on a particular site, an abandoned swimming pool in Brooklyn, McCarren Park Pool. A site once alive with people, but closed and derelict since 1986 after a fire. The sound documents produced by and within this apparent ‘wasteland’ reveal a wealth of interest.

We all know that places affect us, our memories, our emotions and our behaviour. The art of ‘psychogeography’ endeavours to make this nebulous perception into more of a precise science. I suppose it’s to do with a process of investigation and discovery — and concentration. Any finding that is revealed through your researches counts as psychogeography, as does any action you perform within the bounds of your search. Crumbs. This makes it seem even more nebulous, doesn’t it? Well, listen to some concrete results — they’re here on this record.

The nine artists here have adopted the art of the ‘dérive’ from the French intellectuals who (under the tutelage of Guy Debord) formed the Situationist International in Paris in the 1950s. Their concept of the ‘situation,’ according to Tony Rayns, ‘referred to the group’s own wish to redefine urban environments as playgrounds in time and space for the liberated psychogeographer.’ Geoff Dugan and his cohorts are building a ‘sonic map’ of this abandoned pool and its surroundings, a concept reinforced by the blueprint insert which is packed with portable nuggets of info: images, quotes, diagrams, statements, oblique comments.

These images assist the recordings in offering ‘snapshots’ of the psychic life of the site. Geoff Dugan’s ‘Mirage’ is almost straight documentary, with traffic and airplanes along with birdsong and barking dogs; it’s filled with fugitive images, including his own shadow, as he walks over the site. Gen Ken Montgomery records a little girl singing about washing her hair, alongside the sounds of running water — until her voice becomes swamped within a vast echoing sound. Other tracks contain memories of the former life of this public space; John Hudak’s recording suggests the ghosts of swimmers, bodies immersed in slow-moving water. Chop Shop’s ‘Dry Hole’ track likewise laments the passing of the pool, and immerses the listener deep inside a memory of water. Sean Meehan’s ‘Neglect’ widens the scope to include a vision of urban decay, with his metallic music suggesting a ghost of industry since passed from the site.

More speculative, mystical visions are provided by Brian Conley, whose ‘Empty’ is a portrait of the space of the pool all around us; its vast echoing sounds soon building into a grand speculation on abandonment and isolation. Francisco López goes even further, with his worrisome granular silences overdubbed into a thunderous roar. I have no idea how these recordings were made, yet they succeed in capturing intangibles — an atmosphere, a memory, but always the very strong sense of a specific location. The CD closes on a more hopeful note, with a documentary recording of Astoria Park Pool by Pat Courtney. Presumably this swimming pool is still open, judging by the happy squeals of the public swimming and splashing! So we move from a vision of a near-desolate wasteland filled with ghosts, to the friendly community ‘paradise’ of the Astoria.

Even if you don’t dig the art of psychogeography, this quiet record is still utterly fascinating to listen to, and I recommend it highly.