Reviewed by Lins Honeyman
This DVD accompanies the 2004 CD release of the same name by Iona band members and Celtic mainstays Donockley and Bainbridge. Having performed and recorded as a duo for some time now, what makes this release unique is the fact that it is a totally improvised piece aimed at blending in with its surroundings - in this case, the wonderful Lincoln Cathedral. As you might expect, this is a very ambient work and it highlights the skills of both Donockley and Bainbridge in being able to sustain a high level of improvisation for about an hour. The DVD comes with extensive interviews with the two artists conducted by the lovely Sam Boyero but arguably the most fascinating feature is the interview with binaural sound recorder Dallas Simpson. Basically, binaural recording is where the musical events are recorded as the human ears would hear them (as opposed to a bog standard stereo recording) and is usually facilitated by the sound being recorded by two microphones situated on either side of a plastic dummy's head. Simpson has gone one step further by attaching microphones to his own ears and wandering in and out of the proceedings to give a truer reflection of how the sound was actually heard when it was performed. The sight of the bearded Simpson, complete with woolly jumper, unkempt hair and thick white socks gliding around the set is a strange one to behold but the concept of binaural recording does explain his seemingly eccentric antics! The audio setup allows for the listener to experience the event in stereo and the aforementioned binaural format. The latter is designed to be used only with headphones to experience the full 3D effect and it delightfully picks up the ambient creaks and sighs (and even the distant sound of the cathedral bell) that you would struggle to hear on a simple stereo recording. Musically, 'From Silence' sees Donockley playing his trademark array of whistles and Uilleann pipes whilst Bainbridge features on keyboards, guitar and bouzouki. There are understandably some wrong notes and other imperfections but this does not take away from the overall effect. Aside from the music, it is interesting to hear how each of the artists view their music from a spiritual point of view. Donockley explains that he is a "non-Christian" but admits there is an other worldly nature to their music. Bainbridge, on the other hand, when prompted by the interviewer affirms that Christianity is part of his life but this thread is not developed further by the man himself. Whilst the music is obviously the main focus, the production of the DVD's visual element comes across has having been slightly rushed. A lot of the filming is shaky with quite a few clumsy edits and, given the setting, the whole presentation would have been enhanced by more shots of the cathedral itself aside from the occasional grainy images on show here.
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