Observing an ecological system and the act of listening to music have much in common; both reveal their subtleties over time as a reward for the attentive eye and ear rather than presenting themselves in a single instant, and they both require a sense of relationship of their parts to the whole. Sarah Peebles’ Insect Groove is a set of sonic landscapes for the ear that is, in the words of The Wire, “… a rewarding interface between digital abstraction, group improvisation, 21st century program music, Zen performance and ecological manifesto.” The disc collects a series of works by Sarah Peebles and an A-list of collaborators from the experimental music community (British composer and text artists David Toop and the extended guitar work of Nilan Pererra) and the work of Jin Hi Kim and Ko Ishikawa, traditional musicians known world-wide for their commitment to bringing the sounds of their respective traditional Korean and Japanese court instruments into the new century. The eight tracks on Insect Groove combine Sarah’s performance on the sho, an ancient Japanese mouth organ found in the Japanese gagaku orchestra, with her own Max patches that she uses to access clusters of natural and mechanical samples. The recordings are, almost without exception, live performances‹often in alternative performance settings. Some highlights include “White Powder/The Spiders” featuring David Toop’s spoken word work from his text Exotica: fabricated soundscapes in a real world, alongside the sho work of Japanese virtuoso Ko Ishikawa (who is also featured on “Listen to the Sound of the Sun Sinking into the Lake.”) Toop guests again in a somewhat different form on “Drillbit Skiploop”, where a sample from a skipping CD of David’s own recording Pink Noir provides the source material for Sarah’s transformations. Jin Hi Kim guests on electrified komungo (a Korean zither dating from the fourth century) on the disc’s title track. The resulting soundscapes are lively collections of the near-familiar, where radio broadcasts, insects, power tools, birds, and acoustic instruments live side-by-side in provocative harmony.
Cover photo by Wolfgang Wiggers.