DANIEL BACHMAN

Weather is happening. 

From the heart of Delhi, to Tangier Island. The burning redwood forests, the dying jet stream waters. It is happening to you and to me. We pump carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere by the gigaton as the cascading feedback loops of climate breakdown continue to destabilize the biosphere. Oh, the wind and rain. We have all lived it. Stunned by the unfathomable power of our Earth and a sinking derealization about our tenuous future.

Almanac Behind exists in this space. The title is both an anagram of Daniel Bachman’s name and a reference to the fact that rapid environmental changes have rendered traditional weather forecasting methods woefully unable to accurately predict our future. Over fifteen tracks, Almanac Behind guides the listener through natural disaster and its aftermath, via a series of field recordings by Bachman and his collaborators. The guitar, banjo, fiddle, and other instruments are presented in neutral modal tunings, avoiding conventional harmonic representations of mood and sentiment, and are often digitally altered in both subtle and obvious ways. At its core, Almanac Behind is powered by the sounds of the Earth, tones inherently familiar to the billions of people who have experienced extreme weather. It is an attempt to emotionally contend with and foster connection over a shared global experience.

“Barometric Cascade (Signal Collapse)” begins with wind blowing through front porch windchimes. Broken segments of cut-and-pasted slide guitar improvisations play over a tanpura-like guitar drone.
The slide guitar crackles out of a thin radio speaker, achieved by broadcasting the recording to a home radio via an FM transmitter. As the storm gathers, the radio signal collapses into squelching tones. Local NOAA weather radio, “8:35 PM KHB36 (Alter Course)” cuts through the static and relays a year’s worth of emergency weather broadcasts recorded by Bachman at his home in Banco, Va. The chaotic thumps and strums of a 12-string guitar warn of the events unfolding. An emergency broadcast plays over church hymns. The signal morphs into “Bow Echo/Wall Cloud,” a series of repeating audio patterns made from traditional Appalachian rain signs rendered into WAV files.

“Gust Front (The Waiting)” follows, with solo banjo playing an uneasy cadence as winds gather in tight mountain valleys. The storm begins almost instantly in “540 Supercell,” where a now-driving banjo and frogs, recorded in the mill race behind Bachman’s house, are easily overtaken by waves of hissing rain and hail. “10:17 PM KHB36 (The Warned Area)” returns with an updated emergency alert of imminent flooding in the neighborhood. Disparate radio transmissions swell as the broadcast is overtaken by the rising water. All that remains when “Flood Stage” opens is repeating AM radio static, slowed 43 times to create a pulsing rhythmic pattern that drives through the entirety of the track. The same cut-and-paste technique used earlier is repeated here to create a buoyant slide guitar melody, like a dead log floating down a swollen river. The flood waters rise during “Inundation (The Blackout),” in which the sounds of all of Virginia’s major rivers at flood stage flow into one sonic stream. Tree limbs, pulled into the water, scream in high pitched wails. Electrical lines flail wildly as all sound condenses into a single point, then silence.

A match is lit in the darkness as “Wildfire (Smoke Over Old Rag)” begins. Here, Bachman has built a fire from field recordings, YouTube videos of Virginia wildfire responders, harmonium drone, and a beat created by rendering a photo of the sun setting behind Old Rag Mountain, red from West coast wildfire smoke, into a WAV file. “Think Before You Breathe” is audio of dying fire, significantly slowed to exaggerate its final gasps for air. The warbling guitar floats to great heights with the smoke, consistently interrupted by glitches and abrupt pitch drops. “3:24 AM KHB36 (When The World’s On Fire)” breaks out of the relative calm with the drone of hand-wound emergency radio crank underneath clips from the 2022 IPCC report, time signal radio broadcast, a smoke inhalation alert, and a performance of the Carter Family’s gospel tune “When The World’s On Fire” on slide guitar and accompaniment.

The tired and mournful banjo solo, “Daybreak (In The Awful Silence)” represents exhaustion and frustrated resignation during an extended power outage. “Grid Reactivation” comes suddenly, rushing down the lines to reach the transformer, powering on the A/C, radio, and other temporarily-muted appliances. “Five Old Messages (MadCo Alert)” await. Now, as cleanup begins, comes “Recalibration/Normalization.” The cut-and-paste technique is repeated one final time to represent disorientation of facing a new reality in the aftermath of disaster. At its end, we again hear wind rustling the porch chimes, signaling storms on the horizon. Almanac Behind ends as it began, and can be played on a loop, mirroring the cyclicality of these weather patterns. The only thing that has changed is that the listener has now also experienced them.

Weather is happening.


DB Almanac Behind
IMAGES: To download, click above. Press photo credit to Aldona Dye.

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