Unbuilt Sound 001 / US001
In 2020, a year shaped by stringent COVID-19 restrictions, many of us paused for thought about our collective futures. For First Light Records, this reflection, plus the support of Sound and Music’s Composer-Curator programme, led to the development of Unbuilt Sound, a new series of commissions centred around acoustic ecology; the relationship between listener and environment. Over the course of the project, pioneering electronic artists across the world will immerse themselves in remote rural locations and produce new sound works inspired by their experiences, which will then be released on limited edition vinyl under the First Light Records imprint.
The first iteration of the Unbuilt Sound series sees Flora Yin-Wong retreat to an isolated cabin outside Machynlleth, North Wales, to collect the field recordings that provide the basis for her folklore-inspired album, The Sacrifice. Nestled within the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere, Machynlleth is home to The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), which functions as a site to explore practical solutions for a carbon-free future. The area’s uncanny and untouched natural surroundings, punctuated by the remains of industrial mines, embody a parallel and possible present that provides momentary sanctuary from the climate predicament that faces our contemporary societies.
“Taking its name from a modern adaption of The Mabinogion, the earliest collection of mythic Welsh stories, The Sacrifice is an isolated reflection on the earthen landscape of weaving valleys and still lakes. Inspired by the mytho-historical figures who appear – architects of destinies and synthetic beings who make shamanic journeys of redemption.”
- Flora Yin-Wong
“Ride, these ancient and contemporary currents, carrying their secrets from up-stream. Wanderwaves, when pebbles skip across the ripples, I reflect upon it, this water mirror...”
- Rachel Lyn
A collage of twisted field recordings, rich waves of synth, and whispered vocals, The Sacrifice oscillates between gentle familiarity and dreamlike distortions, inspiring a folkloric sense of place that extends across time. This combination of composed sound and field recordings establishes a dialogue between Yin-Wong and her environment. Softly dissonant drones envelop the sounds of rocks underfoot and rippling pools, a continuous call and response between artist and landscape. These themes are perhaps best captured on ‘Willow Bends’, which features spoken word written and performed by Berlin’s Rachel Lyn, a DJ and producer whose cross-genre sonic explorations are fast becoming a mainstay in the city’s dynamic electronic scene.
The artwork for The Sacrifice was created by Portugal-born, Norway-based visual artist and ANTI Bergen lead designer, Vera Gomes. Mirroring the practice of sonic collage that underpins The Sacrifice, Gomes reassembles fragments of the Welsh landscape from Flora Yin-Wong’s analogue photography, combining them with images of human-made concrete artifacts.
“The goal of these spatial collages is to remain somewhat abstract and mysterious in form … they perform, through image, what sampled music performs: a remix, a reappropriation.”
- Vera Gomes
"The field recordings of The Sacrifice are reverent towards the totality of their mother environment. From whipping wind to the silence of abandoned mines, Yin-Wong’s samples are visually situated in the landscape, highlighting contrasts between the remains of industry and the pristine wilderness." - 7/10
"Yin-Wong's understanding of the 'acoustic ecology' theme is inspired, she's come up with music that sounds as contemporary as last year's ace "Holy Palm", but feels rooted in a past that bubbles beneath our feet."
- Boomkat Online
"ASMR scratches, funereal chants and phantasmal whispers write a haunting narrative, until each sound is ultimately engulfed by a vortex of white noise."
- Resident Advisor
"Yin-Wong draws on the power of paradoxes to sonically integrate field recordings from the idyllic Welsh countryside with mechanized synths, densely layered drones, and spectral vocals."
- Sonduke Magazine
The Sacrifice is available to pre-order on limited run 12" vinyl here.
Artwork and design by Vera Gomes.
Mastered by Dominic Clare at Declared Sound.
Lyrics on 'Willow Bends' written and performed by Rachel Lyn.
Special thanks to Ciaran Hoogendoorn, Adam Sherry, and Andrej Chudý.
This project was made possible by Sound and Music's Composer-Curator programme.
Composer-Curator is supported by Arts Council England and PRS Foundation.