Concrete Colored Paint – Through a Lens

4.8.20 by Tony Lien

Orb Tapes has been experiencing exponential growth in variety and scope since its founding in 2015. With releases that span from experimental metal to lost recordings of legendary Sun Ra, it’s obvious that with each venture into new sonic territory the label remains true to a deep-rooted appreciation of sound as more than just a creative commodity.

Though not their latest release, “Through a Lens” by Concrete Colored Paint (Peter Kris) is a prime example of a tape that speaks to this sentiment. Before I delve into specifics though, I’ll leave a gentle reminder here to please wear some headphones while you listen to this tape. I know I say this basically every time I write one of these things, but it really can’t ever be stressed enough when it comes to albums like this one.  

According to the Bandcamp page, Concrete Colored Paint is a travel project – and the collected field recordings are used to “form an audio memory”. Built around an eclectic selection of these sounds (most of them originating from Taiwan), “Through a Lens” unfolds like an abstract audio-only documentary – with a near-continuous layer of ambient playfulness that interacts with the natural sounds in such a way that it almost seems like a separate soundtrack itself. 

With eyes closed, the imagination is surely stoked as these audio memories paint worlds within the listener’s skull. While some of the field recordings are more expected (forest sounds, the crunching of boots in dry grass, etc.) when considering the genre as a whole, others are rather mysterious (see “Death Comes Hardest”) and act almost as a sort of Rorschach test for the ears. Everyone will likely imagine something quite different. 

As the album progresses, the tracks take an unexpected turn. “Farther North” was recorded in what seems to be a crowded restaurant, the clanking of cups and drone of strangers having spirited conversations causing a claustrophobic feeling (in context with the rest of the album, at least – maybe I’m just really that anti-social). “Broken Eye Contact” – my favorite track – depicts the performance of street musicians; however, it seems the mic was somehow placed in a cup here and there, or at least obscured by Kris’s continuous change of position while recording. Whatever the truth behind his process may be, the results remind me of why field recording projects can be almost as surprising and intriguing as a real world experience. 

“Through a Lens” is, despite its underlying spirit of adventure, meditative and subtle – a soothing ode to the natural world and the magic of voluntary displacement. It’s a pleasure to immerse oneself in – especially in times of global hysteria and government-sanctioned quarantine. 

That being said, independent labels/artists need more assistance now than ever. A good portion of them rely on fan support not just for the healthy continuation of their projects, but also for their own personal livelihood. Head over to Orb Tapes and purchase this tape (and any of the others still available) if you have the means to.

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