A drummer (with Lisa Hannigan and Villagers), producer and electronic musician (with I Am The Cosmos and The Din), Ross Turner was also artist in residence at Dublin’s National Concert Hall between 2014 and 2016. During that time, the musician curated a series of collaborations between musicians across a wide range of backgrounds who in some cases had never worked together before.
Released on 30 September 2021 last on the Ergodos label as a digital and vinyl album, In The Echo: Field Recordings from Earlsfort Terrace features Brigid Mae Power, Adrian Crowley, Lisa O’Neill, Saileog Ní Cheannabháin, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Villagers’ Conor O’Brien, Lisa Hannigan, Crash Ensemble and many more.
Field recording usually involves the practice of capturing sounds outside the confines of a traditional recording studio – from ambient sounds in a natural environment to ethnomusicology studies in different cultural contexts. The “field” in question here are the “remote pockets and open spaces”, old lecture theatres or dis-used stairwells within Dublin’s National Concert Hall located at Earlsfort Terrace.
Established in 1865 as an exhibition palace, the building has also hosted the National University of Ireland for most of the 20th century. Re-opened in 1981 as the National Concert Hall, it features four different performance areas including a 1,200 seater auditorium and hosts several orchestras including the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and Crash Ensemble.
Ranging from traditional songs like Lisa O’Neill’s and Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s folk ballad “Peggy Gordon” to Bell X1 singer Paul Noonan and percussionist Roger Moffat’s original “A Tenderness”, In the Echo translates into an intimate and immersive sonic experience capturing the essence of a historic building by focusing on the dynamics between original live performances and the acoustics of the liminal nooks and crannies within.
Katie sang at an upright piano that was located in a room at one end of the second-floor corridor. We kept the door open to enhance the blend of sounds, with Seán situated at the top of a stairwell at the other end of the corridor, maximising the dynamic between the two performers and the building.
The haunting pairing of singer songwriter Katie Kim on piano with jazz and electronic musician Seán Mac Erlaine on bass clarinet sets the tone for the entire recording. “Empire One” echoes the reverb-laden and hypnotic soundscapes of some of Katie Kim’s hugely influential slowcore recordings like Cover & Flood (2010) or Salt (2016) with Seán Mac Erlaine’s bass clarinet gorgeously toying with the natural resonance of the space.
There is a wonderful accidental “ambient noise” on another duo, the striking combination of Adrian Crowley’s baritone with Brigid Mae Power’s floating voice. The sound of a passing train outside illustrates beautifully the instrumental bridge on the singer’s letter of apology “Halfway to Andalucia” which originally appeared on his 2017 Dark Eyed Messenger album.
There are unexpected pairings too. Sean nós singer and fiddler Saileog Ní Cheannabháin’s upright piano and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s hardanger d’amore yields an eerie experimental improvisation channelling both the old walls’ past and present. At the time of the recording, “The Campanile” more than likely anticipates Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s excellent 2019 collaboration with pianist and Gloaming fellow Thomas Bartlett and plays like an unreleased or alternate track.
Lisa Hannigan’s operatic and wordless vocals on the concluding track of the album alongside contemporary music collective Crash Ensemble (featuring Francesco Turrisi on piano accordion) articulates majestically the latent sense of history permeating the entire recording.