One may not immediately associate emotional noise music with the unaltered sounds of pigs and geese, but the first five and a half minutes of Patrick Farmer and David Lacey’s Pictures Of Men. does a lot to make that connection much more apparent. The unaffected agricultural recordings that open the album are among the more gutturally moving musical moments I’ve heard this year. There’s something about the unidentified squawking and oinking that immediately registers as “pained,” in the same manner that a black metal vocalist’s yelps signify despair despite the incomprehensibility of their words. However, with the case of black metal, a listener can always look at the lyric sheet and see the source of the singer’s pain. Pictures Of Men. requires close listens to reveal the origins of certain sounds.
Throughout these opening minutes, it’s easy to hear some kind of industrial clangor that could be the source of the animals’ distress, and it’s pretty much a given that the producer of that clangor must be human. In that case, it seems that Farmer and Lacey use the opening material to establish a subtle dichotomy between man and nature that continues throughout the duration of the 45-minute composition.
As Pictures Of Men. progresses, this dichotomy between the natural-sound world and the man-made world is explored through the juxtaposition of field recording and EAI performance. It’s often difficult to tell what’s a natural sonic occurrence and what’s the result of the duo’s extended percussion technique. As the timbral textures eventually move from farmland to factory, it becomes clear that the album’s opening material presents an unedited relationship between human technology and nature that informs the rest of work. As a result, Pictures Of Men. is an amazingly thorough composition that raises interesting questions about sound source while managing to warp its own sounds into an arresting piece of music.
Pictures Of Men. is out now via Copy For Your Records. You can stream an [excerpt] of the work below: