Dark Sound – Review # 07
I have listened several times to the CD Dark Sound by Mikel R. Nieto over the past month and have been intrigued by the purpose of the recordings presented by the album.
Dark Sound is a CD length single track album of field recordings taken by Mikel R. Nieto mostly in and around the Ecuadorian rainforest within areas associated with the colonisation and domination of contested areas that were found to have oil reserves. The album traces the relationships between a number of different indigenous groups who have resisted becoming associated with Western European and global models of capital, in favour of continuing the heritage and lives they had prior to the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in the late 15th Century.
The single track CD contains a wide number of field recordings from across various situations that the recordist encountered whilst investigating the noise and culture of Ecuadorian oil mining operations and the impact it has had on the biophonic soundscape and ecology of non-native human, native human, and nonhuman populations. The album comes with an accompanying black paged book with black glossy lettering throughout which makes it impossible to read other than in bright sunlight; a statement upon the darkest of dark geological substrates; crude oil, as well as a comment on the practices of obfuscation that have continued in pursuit of capital gain through oil drilling by corporations. This has led to a number of significant historical, political events including the death of Alejandro Lebaka, a Basque man who in the 1980s took it upon himself as a missionary to position himself as “the voice of the voiceless” (Lebaka in Nieto, 2016: 53) but in his attempted defence and support for a number of native groups, specifically the Huaorani (literally meaning those who speak our language”) which is to say, the native people of the Ecuadorian rainforests, was killed by spears from a group of Huaorani referred to as Tagaeri who no longer wished to partake in the violent systems of control forced upon the Huaorani.
The book provides a significant overview to the political history and issues encountered as a result of the colonisation, and pacification of the indigenous people of Ecuador in pursuit for oil whilst also raising a broad ranging investigation into acoustic research and/or phenomena that are a consequence of the oil operations and their effect directly and indirectly on the Ecuadorian ecology.
The album itself, contains a number of ethnographical and environmental field recordings that include weather events, insects, birds, fish and small mammals and security guards, diesel turbines and high security perimeter fencing. The recordings range from acoustic captures to hydrophones to ultrasound and contact microphones in an attempt to reflect the wide range of acoustic, para-acoustic infra and ultrasonic phenomena that are comprised, altered and ruptured in the pursuit of capital.
The book is highly politicised and the recordings only further emphasise the massive transitions from small tribe to mass industrial practice and the absolute refusal for some to be forced to be adapted and co-opted into a military industrial complex and capital based system of goods exchange and parasitic raping of newly discovered lands.