News

Review of El Tren Fantasma by Andrew Weatherall

“A benchmark in field recording not to mention a map of the soul, an insight into the human condition and a key to dreams.” (Caught by the river)
You can read the full review here and buy the album and 12″ vinyl in the TouchShop

TO:42V | El Tren Fantasma – The Signal Man’s Mix

TO42V - El Tren Fantasma (The Signal Mans Mix) - Chris Watson

12″ Vinyl + 320 kbps MP3 files of the two vinyl tracks

Cut by Jason @ Transition
Artwork & Design by Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

Side A
1. El Divisadero – The Telegraph 7:56

Side B
2. Veracruz – The Tunnel 7:54

The Frozen Planet | BBC1 9pm 26th October 2011

Chris Watson has contributed sound recordings to the new series by David Attenborough,

The Frozen Planet.

The first of seven episodes, “To the Ends of the Earth”, explores the poles of our planet, where worlds of ice and snow are inhabited by bizarre and extremely hardy creatures. At the North Pole, as the sun returns after six months of darkness, two polar bears show their tender side and humpback whales join the world’s largest gathering of seabirds to feast in Alaskan waters…

New album “El Tren Fantasma” | 14th November 2011

Chris Watson’s new album, El Tren Fantasma, is due for release in the UK on 14th November 2011. A two track EP (vinyl) will be available shortly after…

Here is more information:

[Touch # TO:42]
CD – 10 tracks – 65 minutes

Artwork: Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham

Track listing:

01: La Anunciante
02: Los Mochis
03: Sierra Tarahumara
04: El Divisadero
05: Crucero La Joya
06: Chihuahua
07: Aguascalientes
08: Mexico D.F.
09: El Tajin; El dia y La noche
10: Veracruz

“Take the ghost train from Los Mochis to Veracruz and travel cross country, coast to coast, Pacific to Atlantic. Ride the rhythm of the rails on board the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (FNM) and the music of a journey that has now passed into history.”

El Tren Fantasma, (The Ghost Train), is Chris Watson’s 4th solo album for Touch, and his first since Weather Report in 2003, which was named as one of the albums you should hear before you die in The Guardian. A Radio programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 30 Oct, 2010, produced by Sarah Blunt, and described as “a thrilling acoustic journey across the heart of Mexico from Pacific to Atlantic coast using archive recordings to recreate a rail passenger service which no longer exists. It’s now more than a decade since FNM operated its last continuous passenger service across country. Chris Watson spent a month on board the train with some of the last passengers to travel this route. As sound recordist he was part of the film crew working on a programme in the BBC TV series Great Railways Journeys. Now, in this album, the journey of the ‘ghost train’ is recreated, evoking memories of a recent past, capturing the atmosphere, rhythms and sounds of human life, wildlife and the journey itself along the tracks of one of Mexico’s greatest engineering projects.

The radio broadcast received national press coverage in the UK:

The Observer:

It is over a decade since FNM operated its last continuous passenger service across the country but here sound recordist Chris Watson recreates its atmospheric journey with the help of the train recordings he made while working on the BBC television series Great Railway Journeys… through desert and city, but it is the rocking rhythms of the train itself that prove most memorable. [Stephanie Billen]

The Financial Times:

El Tren Fantasma (8pm) is Archive on 4’s recollection of a trans-Mexico rail journey by sound recordist Chris Watson. From desert to rainforest, hummingbirds’ wings to the boom of heat rising from the Copper Canyon, it recalls a beloved passenger train system abandoned by privatisation. **** [Martin Hoyle]

The Daily Telegraph:

Sometimes, radio can awaken the mind and sharpen the senses like no other medium. This “sound portrait” of a now-abandoned railway line that used to run between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Mexico is a good case in point. Captured by sound recordist Chris Watson more than a decade ago, it jostles with human, animal and mechanical life, filling the room with an atmosphere that is more richly evocative of Central America than any TV travel show I’ve seen. Diesel engines thrum, cicadas chirrup and passengers chatter, sing and argue. [Pete Naughton]

The world of Field Recordings | Pitchfork

There is a feature in Pitchfork in October 2011 here

A Journey South | 9th November 2011

Exploring the Acoustic Landscape

LICA Building, University of Lancaster
9th November at 7pm

From 54 degrees North on the shores of Morecambe Bay to 78 degrees South beneath the surface of the frozen sea off the coast of Ross Island, Antarctica. Chris Watson is one of the world’s leading recorders of wildlife and natural phenomena. He traces a sonic connection through the rhythm and music recorded in the largest and most sound rich habitat on our planet.

Chris is also spending 3 days with students from the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts, Lancaster University. He will be running workshops and field recordings with the students in his first visit to the university.

Ten Choices for Dusted Magazine

Ten tracks, albums or recordings that have inspired and delighted me in roughly chronological order

01: Étude aux Chemins de Fer by Pierre Schaeffer

As a teenager back in the 1970’s this was my introduction to musique concrete and the revolutionary idea that one could arrange and compose sounds via a tape recorder. The track is full of dynamics, rhythm and the most wonderful displaced timbres. The potential for creating such a work was a fabulous and exciting prospect and guided me towards a new world of artistic expression.

02: (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

Deep emotional expression, a fabulous voice and great production really opened my ears to this man and his soul music. There are many tracks to choose from but this one in particular speaks of a universal feeling richly cut into the vinyl grooves.

03: The Velvet Underground and Nico

Pop art and unpopular music just worked so well and encapsulated most of my energies and interests during this period. Excitement, experimentation, technology, drugs, danger, parties, lights, film, music and writing. The creative collaboration of any or all of these
elements was a stimulating educational process and the soundtrack was usually this album.

04: The Ballad of John Axon by Charles Parker and Ewan MacColl

The growing realisation for the creative potential of reel to reel tape recorders led me
to the producer Charles Parker and his fabulous radio ballads. Location sounds, real voices, Ewan MacColl’s music and above all a powerful and compelling story makes for
a piece that transcends the sum of the parts and becomes radio that rocks.

05: Neu! by Neu

A blurring of the distinctions between musicians and producers began here for me with
this great album produced by Conrad Plank. Sounds with a conceptual groove which were also interesting and danceable. I also felt an empathy for most of the German bands
of this period such as Can and Kraftwerk who were busy in their studios creating music for an international audience.

06: Nothing Here Now But The Recordings by William S. Burroughs

A powerful and disturbing dramatic realisation of the written word into sound by the author. The cut up and collage manifesto presented as an alternative spirit of the technology used
to convey the message that there were other messages embedded within the medium.

07: I Wah Dub by Blackbeard aka Dennis Bovell

I still don’t know how you get such powerful music onto a record. I was fascinated, delighted and overwhelmed by every track.

Olympic-standard rhythm and sound.

A drummer friend of mine at the time played this record on a big system and said it made him want to give up.

08: Falling Snow by Russell Haswall

A single album length recording of falling snow recorded with a pair of hydrophones
in the Suffolk countryside. Compelling and immersive with a strange narrative element. This is a very quiet recording of stunning clarity which encapsulates an event that happens all around us yet we hardly ever hear.

09: Cho Oyu 8201m by Geir Jenssen aka Biosphere

A celebration of a trek to and ascent of this Tibetan mountain and featuring a series of original and unprocessed tracks together with some re-worked material. The result is a powerful, challenging and emotionally complex journey into a place where most of us will never visit.

10: An ark for the listener by Philip Jeck

Philip’s work is quite simply a beautiful evocation of music as it exudes out from what is trapped beneath the surface. The reconstructions and subsequent textures reveal what has been lost, passed out of our sight, yet buried deep within our own imagination.
Chris Watson, August 2011

Tone 43 | Chris Watson & Marcus Davidson – Cross-Pollination

TONE43 - Cross-Pollination - Chris Watson  Marcus Davidson

CD in digipak – 2 tracks – 48:20

Art Direction: Jon Wozencroft
Cover image: Yusuke Murakami

Track listing:

1. Midnight at the Oasis 28:03
2. The Bee Symphony 20:00

Notes:

Midnight at the Oasis: – The piece is a 28 minute time compression from sunset to sunrise in South Africa’s Kalahari desert and features the dense and harmonic mosaic of delicate animal rhythms recorded in this remote habitat. “Midnight at the Oasis” was first performed at the Marquee in Parliament Street, York, on 13th September 2007 as part of Sight Sonic.

“The Kalahari desert is a vast and open space where most of the wildlife is nocturnal. After sunset the dunes, grasses and thorn bushes are patrolled by an emerging alien empire – the insects.

Midnight at the Oasis’ presents an unseen soundscape from this beautiful and hostile environment.

The Bee Symphony: A project conceived by Chris Watson originally for “Pestival” in 2009 to explore the vocal harmonies between humans and honey bees in a unique choral collaboration around and within the hives of an English country garden. Recorded live at The Rymer Auditorium, Music Research Centre, University of York, England on December 17th 2010 by Tony Myatt, using a Soundfield SPS200 microphone recorded onto an Edirol R4 (surround version), and 2 x Neumann U87 microphones via Grace Microphone Preamplifiers, recorded onto an Edirol R44 (stereo version). Composed and arranged by Marcus Davidson using recordings made by Chris Watson & Mike Harding, and diffused through a 4.1 Genelec system by Chris Watson. The Bee Choir: Dylan de Buitlear, Lisa Coates, Steph Connor, Lewis Marlowe and Shendie McMath. With thanks to Peter Boardman (the event producer), Tom Emmett, Celia Frisby & Bridget Nicholls, who originally commissioned The Bee Symphony.

Marcus Davidson writes: “The first thing that struck me about the bees was how tuneful they were. During the day, their pitch was always based around A an octave below 440, the note we tune orchestras to. I found that the bees formed chords around the A, which varied depending on their mood. I spent time notating these bee chords, or note clusters, and as the bees sing easily in the human vocal range, I then scored the actual bee music for choir.

The sound of humans singing bees was strangely engaging. I thought it was reminiscent of Aboriginal music, perhaps showing how in tune with nature the native civilisations are. In fact, all the chords and ‘tunes’ in The Bee Symphony are taken from actual notes sung by the bees in the field recordings. The score was written so the choir sings exactly with different aspects of the bee song in real time, so hopefully we indeed have humans singing in harmony with bees!”

TO:42 | El Tren Fantasma

TO42 - El Tren Fantasma - Chris Watson

CD – 10 tracks – 65 minutes

Artwork: Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham

Track listing:

01: La Anunciante
02: Los Mochis
03: Sierra Tarahumara
04: El Divisadero
05: Crucero La Joya
06: Chihuahua
07: Aguascalientes
08: Mexico D.F.
09: El Tajin; El dia y La noche
10: Veracruz

“Take the ghost train from Los Mochis to Veracruz and travel cross country, coast to coast, Pacific to Atlantic. Ride the rhythm of the rails on board the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (FNM) and the music of a journey that has now passed into history.”

El Tren Fantasma, (The Ghost Train), is Chris Watson’s 4th solo album for Touch, and his first since Weather Report in 2003, which was named as one of the albums you should hear before you die in The Guardian. A Radio programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 30 Oct, 2010, produced by Sarah Blunt, and described as “a thrilling acoustic journey across the heart of Mexico from Pacific to Atlantic coast using archive recordings to recreate a rail passenger service which no longer exists. It’s now more than a decade since FNM operated its last continuous passenger service across country. Chris Watson spent a month on board the train with some of the last passengers to travel this route. As sound recordist he was part of the film crew working on a programme in the BBC TV series Great Railways Journeys. Now, in this album, the journey of the ‘ghost train’ is recreated, evoking memories of a recent past, capturing the atmosphere, rhythms and sounds of human life, wildlife and the journey itself along the tracks of one of Mexico’s greatest engineering projects.

Springwatch BBC 1 | Monday 30th May 2011…

Chris Watson is once again working on Springwatch for BBC TV. This year it comes from the RSPB reserve at Yns-hir in Wales.

Ynys-hir Nature Reserve
Springwatch at the BBC

You can read Chris’s blog here and hear his dawn chorus recording here

Tone 43 | Chris Watson & Marcus Davidson – “Cross-Pollination “

CD in digipak – 2 tracks – 48:20
Art Direction: Jon Wozencroft
Cover image: Yusuke Murakami

Track Listing:

1. Chris Watson “Midnight at the Oasis” 28:03
The piece is a 28 minute time compression from sunset to sunrise in South Africa’s Kalahari desert and features the dense and harmonic mosaic of delicate animal rhythms recorded in this remote habitat. “Midnight at the Oasis” was first performed at the Marquee in Parliament Street, York, on 13th September 2007 as part of SightSonic’s contribution to the BA Festival of Science. The Kalahari desert is a vast and open space where most of the wildlife is nocturnal. After sunset the dunes, grasses and thorn bushes are patrolled by an emerging alien empire – the insects. Midnight at the Oasis’ presents an unseen soundscape from this beautiful and hostile environment.

2. Chris Watson & Marcus Davidson “The Bee Symphony” 20:00

A project conceived by Chris Watson originally for “Pestival” in 2009 to explore the vocal harmonies between humans and honey bees in a unique choral collaboration around and within the hives of an English country garden. Recorded live at The Rymer Auditorium, Music Research Centre, University of York, England on December 17th 2010 by Tony Myatt, using a Soundfield SPS200 microphone recorded onto an Edirol R4 (surround version), and 2 x Neumann U87 microphones via Grace Microphone Preamplifiers, recorded onto an Edirol R44 (stereo version). Composed and arranged by Marcus Davidson using recordings made by Chris Watson & Mike Harding, and diffused through a 4.1 Genelec system by Chris Watson. The Bee Choir: Dylan de Buitlear, Lisa Coates, Steph Connor, Lewis Marlowe and Shendie McMath. With thanks to Peter Boardman (the event producer), Tom Emmett, Celia Frisby & Bridget Nicholls, who originally commissioned The Bee Symphony.

Marcus Davidson writes: “The first thing that struck me about the bees was how tuneful they were. During the day, their pitch was always based around A an octave below 440, the note we tune orchestras to. I found that the bees formed chords around the A, which varied depending on their mood. I spent time notating these bee chords, or note clusters, and as the bees sing easily in the human vocal range, I then scored the actual bee music for choir.
The sound of humans singing bees was strangely engaging. I thought it was reminiscent of Aboriginal music, perhaps showing how in tune with nature the native civilisations are. In fact, all the chords and ‘tunes’ in The Bee Symphony are taken from actual notes sung by the bees in the field recordings. The score was written so the choir sings exactly with different aspects of the bee song in real time, so hopefully we indeed have humans singing in harmony with bees!”

Chris Watson’s CD ‘El Tren Fantasma’ will be out in September…

Buy Chris Watson & Marcus Davidson “Cross-Pollination” in the TouchShop

www.marcusdavidson.net

The Bee Symphony on BBC Radio 3 | 24th May 2011

On the TV… | 22nd March 2011

This week, The One Show presents a series of films with Chris Watson

SoundField ST350 Records Life on Earth

Chris Watson, wildlife sound recordist par excellence, has purchased a SoundField ST350 Portable Microphone System for location recording.

Watson, whose career began as a founder member of UK electronic and musique concrete experimentalists Cabaret Voltaire before he became a location sound engineer, has worked closely with respected broadcaster Sir David Attenborough ever since work began on BBC series The Life Of Birds in 1996. In recent years, he has worked as a location recording engineer and sound consultant on feature films such as The Meerkats (Paul Newman’s last film), and National Geographic’s Galapagos, which required his recordings to be made in surround. After years of experimenting with multi-microphone arrays, he began working with SoundField microphones late last year.

You can read more about this here

Chris Watson on Autumnwatch & Unsprung | 21st October 2010

This year Chris was on location in Northumberland for BBC’s Autumnwatch. He also appeared on Unsprung and posed a sonic quiz to viewers and the studio audience.

The answers to the sonic quiz are:

1) Puffins
2) Grey Seals
3) Deathwatch Beetles

You can read more here

Birdsong: the cure for all ills? | The Guardian 25th August 2010

birdsong

There was also a piece in The Daily Telepgraph on 24th August which can be read here.

Corridor8

Issue #2 of Corridor8, an international contemporary visual art journal with a fresh and original mix of in-depth critical and literary writing, profiles and contemporary art. The second edition is the ‘Borderlands’ edition, Strange Weather, which investigates practice that takes as its starting point the remote, the endgame and life beyond the urban. This issue Corridor8 stretches its northern focus from the far-flung reaches of the UK and beyond and includes the North Midlands, North Scotland, Northern Europe and as far as the Arctic and back again via the Antarctica.

In this issue Elisa Oliver profiles Chris Watson’s creative history, including his work with Cabaret Voltaire, and interviews him from his base at the South Pole about his current work recording for the Attenborough BBC series, The Frozen Planet, to be screened in 2011.

A unique audio recording by Chris Watson, “The Sea Ice Border”, will be given away free with Issue #2 of Corridor8.

This CD will contain two tracks:
1. 89º 24′ N above
2. 89º 24′ N below

Also featured: Guest curator Axel Lapp brings us seven artists/groups to watch in the Conceptual North, Iain Sinclair’s transcribed audio journey Listening for the Corncrake, North Wales-based performance art duo, Heather and Ivan Morrison, Polar interventionist artist Neville Gabie and much more.

For more information on the launch of Corridor8 and our events programme sign up to our newsletter at www.corridor8.co.uk

Hazard – “Wind” now up on iTunes

In 2001 Chris Watson contributed wind recordings to an album by Hazard (BJNilsen)

Wind (Ash International # Ash 6.5) is now available on itunes

You can read more about this album here

Chris Watson in The Wire | August 2010

318cover

On the cover: Chris Watson – Ken Hollings meets the sound recordist and Cabaret Voltaire founder whose mic penetrates the wild places humans can’t reach…

Interview in Line Up

Chris has been interviewed by Line Up (“the only online resource dedicated to audio for broadcast”) – click here to read.

The Ditch wins Best Drama at BBC Radio Awards | February 2010

The Afternoon Play, The Ditch, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 1st February, won ‘BEST DRAMA’ Award at the BBC Audio and Music Awards last week.

A sound recordist is enticed by the disturbing aural landscape of Slaughton Ditch with terrifying and fatal consequences.

Writer: Paul Evans
Wildlife sound recordist:Chris Watson
Sound engineer: Mike Burgess
Producer: Sarah Blunt

(Unfortunately its no longer available to listen to on iPlayer if folk are interested in hearing it.)