ACL Recommendations: “The best sort of nature album, one that sits back and lets the local inhabitants strut their stuff. Biodukt distills the rhythms of a day down to a single hour, and provides a respite from worry and work.”

During this global crisis, we need reminders of the great eternal.  Biodukt is an intensely soothing release, a day spent in the forest from sunrise to sunset, shared in the space of exactly one hour.  The five track titles ~ Sunrise, Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Sunset ~ may be markers of time, but the forest has its own rhythms, none of which are connected to the clock.

The sun comes up; the birds awake.  Most of them have been active since just before dawn.  The forest begins to teem with life.  The woodpecker comes a little late to the party, but that’s okay, because the other residents in the forest likely prefer waking up to the serenity of tweets than to the hammering of beaks.

The sonic changes are incremental, as one species or another goes off to look for food, feeds its young, relaxes and plays or builds homes and hides from predators.  But the forest is not simply its residents; it is also the trees, many of which have seen generation after generation of fauna.  Trees are better able to understand geological time, encasing their history in their rings.  This is the year of plenty; this is the year of drought.  The cover image is a canopy of protection.

The album, recorded in Italy and Slovenia by Martina Testen and Simon Šerc, is also part of a thesis from Testen. Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ liner notes allude to the wilderness as it pertains to healing and the immune system (popularized in Japan as “forest bathing”), mystery, and “God-hunger.”  She writes of “levels of hearing” ~ surface hearing, artistic hearing and soul-hearing.  The forest engenders this last and deepest level of hearing.  When we enter the woods we hear; as we walk through the woods, we feel; as our immersion continues, we may be transformed.

By afternoon, the steam is flowing in a healthy fashion; frogs are croaking, crickets are chirping.  The stream, of course, did not “wake up;” the recording location has changed.   People consistently name water sounds as among the most relaxing, but there’s a huge difference between the stream setting on a sleep device (which is normally white noise) and the sound of biodiversity.  An additional level of safety is connoted by the presence of so many cries and calls, even if they get testy mid-piece (not enough fish for the fowl?).  Aurally, the forest is least safe when it is quiet.

The evening brings the sound of lapping waves, a pleasant surprise given the fact that one does not expect it.  The gentle approach of water, the recession over the wrack line, the hint of ocean and beach provides a welcome reminder of pleasant days to come.  But the ocean is always there, even if we don’t often take advantage of it in the off-season.  Pablo Neruda writes, “I need the sea because it teaches me.”  Here is the sea, reaching the listener on the level of soul-hearing.  While Biodukt is a beautiful, pristine recording, it is also an invitation.  Come.  (Richard Allen)


Categories: Reviews