Little Fictions – Territory Of Light (C30, Small Worm)

On November 23, a new Little Fictions tape called Territory Of Light was released as a C30 through Small Worm, James Shearman‘s wonderful imprint for “experiments, mishaps, rummaging, field recording, grievous chaotic din, rabble-rousing, wall noise, Styx ferryman whistling tunes, children’s rhymes in dead languages, animal mating calls, number station remixes and anything else”. James had asked me to contribute a while back to his label to become part of the inaugural batch. Finding the right form and shape for what ultimately became a new Little Fictions release was a lengthy process that went through many different shapes and forms before settling into what it currently is.

One of the hand-drawn J-cards for the Territory Of Light tape.

James’ explicit invitation to join the Small Worm ranks was an implicit invitation to myself to once more immerse myself in the experiments I had once undertaken under the WOW WAR TECHNO and Super Mario Bros. monikers. I have been active recordings for these on and off through the years, initially motivated by a desire to feel less confined by the boundaries of the sounds I had found myself somewhat entrenched in (Opaque was another such venture, started for much of the same reasons). This initially resulted in a flurry of digital and physical releases (the anniversary of my 100th release was celebrated in part by the physical release of 5 WOW WAR TECHNO releases on tape), though I eventually found myself once more chasing much the same types of sound and delving less into the types of sound rummaging that Small Worm encourages.

Territory Of Light, thus, was prefaced by finding form, again – which was an interesting exercise in and of itself, as it pushed me in directions newly unfamiliar and newly familiar. The process took me through a variety of forms and sounds, in which I revisited designs, themes and approaches which I had previously attempted and abandoned. As such, this then-unnamed project took on a host of possible names, shapes, identities: it was the ambient of Ambient 5: Music For Killing Fields; it was the decayed electronics of Sneeuwval; it was the fuzzy hiss of Korean Cosmetics. These unidentified forms were plagued by a restlessness; the wealth of possibility the project offered became almost intimidating, allowing for such infinite possibility that I had trouble establishing what exactly I wanted it to be.

Visiting Seoul.

In this process of uncovering and recovering, I unearthed another project that I had once worked on but which had never taken on any definite form. In 2018, I visited Seoul with my girlfriend and my sister. It was July and the heat was incredible; pavements shimmered, dry air hung still in palace gardens, the smoke curling from grilled meats disappeared into the ambient heat of sweltering nights unnoticed. The week was like a fever dream, our trek through a relentlessly warm Namdaemun market on the first day setting the tone for the days to come, driving us to escape into airconditioned spaces when possible, the differences in temperature sometimes like being plunged into an ice bath. It was an unforgettable, amazing experience, the memories of which I cherish I perhaps more than those of any other journey I’ve been on.

It was this constant shock of temperature changes that gave my girlfriend a throat infection, after which she ended up with an actual fever that kept her in bed for our second-to-last day in the city. My sister and I took the opportunity to find refuge in the vast, spacious building of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. I recorded our journey through the building as we weaved in and out of halls and rooms, capturing the stray sounds of exhibitions, announcements and visitors that echoed around us. The recordings I intended to issue on tape through Void Worship. I had edited down the recordings, designed the art – done the work, pretty much – but soon found myself actively immersed in other projects, as a result of which the idea of the tape disappeared into the background. Only when James suggested a Small Worm contribution, it sprang back into life.

The Small Worm tape, however, as it finally took shape, did not develop into what it was from the field recordings. Instead, it was a field recording I made from the other side of the world, from the comfort of my own home, where, as I sat reading one day, a faraway storm rumbled its way towards me, rain slowly beginning to drip-drop onto the grass and balconies around me. I quickly took to recording this storm, which ultimately remained gentle – the rumbles of thunder stayed far-off, the rain fell slowly and languidly. The tail end of these showers, with some manipulation, became the third track of the A-side of the tape, Submerged. The first two tracks were designed to share the sonic character of the third track somewhat, though the process for them was different – I recorded two walls and then recorded them – field recording style, I am sitting in a room style – while moving through the space in which I played them. Together, they came to form this trilogy, of sounds summoned, sacred and submerged. In some respect, the A-side became a callback to the two Little Fictions releases I did before this one: Love & Girls was also a room recording of a previously recorded wall, River Spirit a manipulated recording I made of a rain storm.

Love & Girls, River Spirit and Yuko Tsushima’s Territory Of Light.

The choice to feature the field recordings I had previously made in Seoul then seemed natural. It functioned both as a complement and as counterbalance. Side A was a field-recorded approach to hiss and crackle, ambient, captured in the presence of spring rain; side B the field-recorded document of sweltering heat and refuge taken thereof, the hiss of spacious, empty hallways. There were, for me, clear ways in which there were significant similarities in approach, setting and sound as well as valuable contrasts. All that was missing, finally, was the overarching theme – the way in which it was to be expressed. Territory Of Light, in retrospect, seemed to be the only possible title. It has a wealth of references encapsulated in it – to the ambient spaces in which the recordings were made; the light bursting forth from clouds amidst spring rain; those lights covering the mountains and streets and buildings of Seoul at the various times of day and night; the making of a territory, both in the physical realm – by defining it – and the sonic realm – by capturing it. It also is a reference to the novel of the same name by Yuko Tsushima, which conveyed a familiar sort of feverish light that illuminated all its pages and words – fragile, unreal, yet corporeal.

Territory Of Light was released in an edition of 10 copies. While these are now sold out, you can freely stream the tracks on the Small Worm Bandcamp.

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