Sounds Heard: Marcus Fischer—On Shore
The above liner notes could read as a poem for Portland, Oregon-based musician and multimedia artist Marcus Fischer’s On Shore, a single 29-minute track that was originally released as a Japanese tour CD. But it’s really more like a shopping list of sound sources that can be heard throughout the course of the track. While at first glance, wind and waves might conjure images of a Windham Hill recording or something otherwise new age-y, I can assure you that this music is nothing of the sort. What it is, rather, is original and striking ambient music, well worth the half-hour soak for the ears.
Fischer is a versatile artist, active in music as well as in photography and other mediums (including the building of treehouses!). The hard copy version of On Shore, packaged in a letterpressed chipboard sleeve, is regrettably sold out (apparently there were only two rounds of 30 copies made), but the audio may be purchased via Bandcamp.
On Shore brings together aspects of the electronic music world that are not so easy to combine well, and manages to do so in a cliché-free environment. Field recordings and hand-crafted sounds are mixed with electric guitar improvisation and DIY electronic constructions, creating a long-form evolving texture that maintains interest throughout and yet never pushes too hard towards the next phase of activity. It’s the kind of sound world that allows space for the listener to explore and find different listening angles upon repeated plays.
The track begins with the sound of waves juxtaposed with close-miced burbling water, into which a languid melody slithers at about 2:45. Plucked guitar tones pop into the forefront, creating structural beams for the interplay of textural material that spreads across the spaces between strikes. At 14:15 the harmonic content starts to thicken out, and a faster pulse enters. By 18:13 you notice that the bottom has dropped away, leaving behind bare guitar strumming, joined by soft yet slightly menacing sounding low tones that gradually pull the water and wind gusts into the soundscape. The mixing of this track is extremely well done, in that the various complex sound sources never mush together—like really good instrumental orchestration, each layer can be clearly heard.
On Shore has many of the qualities I find myself searching for in electronic music; it is organically constructed in a way that makes sense, it’s unpretentious, it contains just the right amounts of grit and sparkle, and it is not afraid of patience, nor of silence.