Los Angeles-based sound and visual artist Yann Novak’s Surroundings originated as a site-specific sound performance commissioned for the Hamon Observation Tower at the de Young Museum in San Francisco by the Soundwave Biennial. Like many of Novak’s recordigs, Surroundings lives as both a document of context as well as its own meditative musical statement. The environment of the deYoung lends its acoustics as Novak gradually fades in his signature radiant haze. His cloud of shapeless drones is accentuated by field recordings of the surrounding Golden Gate Park, with Novak’s swarm of electronics and environmental recordings embedded within one another. As a result, the album serves as a document of this particular time(s) and place(s) but also stands alone as its own self-contained drone.
One might argue that by virtue of deliberately sourcing sounds from the space and surrounding park, Surroundings is, at its core, the antithesis of ambient listening; this is not music that is intended to fade into wallpaper but instead serves as a living, breathing, in-the-moment experience that encourages listeners to hear its quiet details and environmental resonance. At 28 minutes, it’s a shorter one from Novak, whose releases on his own Dragon’s Eye label are often at least an hour, but it makes sense given its installation context; most passersby won’t be likely to stick around for a full hour. In the bigger picture of Novak’s repertoire as a sound artist (and considering it more as standalone audio, free of context), Surroundings feels like yet another piece within the scope of his larger ongoing body of minimal sound work, set apart only slightly by its marriage of inspired site specific collaborations with the sublime, electronic atmospheres at which Novak so often excels. Deep, meditative, and immersive; highly recommended.
— Ear Influxion
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Since relaunching Dragon’s Eye Recordings a few years ago, his label has amassed a catalogue of essential releases from the likes of Geneva Skeen, Robert Curgenven, steve roden, and Pinkcourtseyphone. Novak’s own work sits easily alongside them, as he continues to impress with one impeccable release after the next. A stereo mix of a site-specific sound performance in the tower of the de Young museum (and thus a perfect fit for the LINE label), the location is therefore a crucial element of the work. The de Young is situated within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and as much as the city has changed in the last decade, the museum’s Hamon Observation Tower is still the best place to view it. (And it’s free to enter the tower even without museum admission!) So, being as the tower offers my favorite view of one of my favorite cities, surrounded by one of the greatest public parks in the world, I may have been especially primed to appreciate the charms of Surroundings. It’s not hard to hear in Surroundings the image of Herzog & de Meuron’s museum amidst the green grounds of the park, a panoramic view of the shining city between the Bay and the Pacific. But one need not have such a relationship to appreciate the gently resonating drones and quiet rumble of field-recordings that comprises Surroundings.
– Joseph Sannicandro, ACL 2017 ~ The Top 20 Albums of the Year
Yann Novak’s Surroundings was commissioned for the Hamon Observation Tower at the de Young fine arts museum in San Francisco. It became the very atmosphere of the place, as well as ushering out the sound of the city and the local park. Its ambient citizenship looked down at the loud, blaring city with a hushed disposition, watching the daily grind from on high. Higher altitudes gave the music first a sense of peace and then of distance. Spaciousness was born out of that parental bond. Surroundingswas both a part of the city and the heart of the city, both a lonesome onlooker and a crucial participant…away from things and yet closer than you think.
– James Catchpole, ACL 2017 ~ Top Ten Drone
Sept ans après son premier disque pour le label californien Line, le productif Yann Novak s’offre une nouvelle sortie chez la même écurie.
En 2010, Relocation.Reconstruction constituait une première tentative d’isoler pour Line des sonorités étendues et déstructurées qui prennent le temps de s’emboîter. Actif depuis 2005, l’artiste est habitué à délivrer chaque année plusieurs productions qui évoluent dans une veine mêlant ambient, drone et field recordings.
C’est à nouveau cette orientation qu’emprunte le natif de Madison, dans le Wisconsin, sur un Surroundings constitué d’une unique piste de vingt-neuf minutes. Celle-ci prend le temps de poser des bases répétitives pour s’enrichir aussi bien sur le plan technique qu’émotionnel.
Créée initialement comme une performance sonique accompagnant la Soundwave Biennal de San Francisco, Surroundings associe des field recordings captés dans le Golden Gate Park de ’The City By The Bay’ à des textures synthétiques inspirées par le domaine de l’architecture.
Ce disque dont le mastering a été assuré par Lawrence English ne se contente pas d’étoffer l’immense discographie de Yann Novak qui compte plus de vingt longs-formats en tout juste douze ans d’exercice. Surroundings n’a rien d’anecdotique et apporte une véritable plus-value à cet ensemble en ouvrant une nouvelle porte aérienne et contemplative au sein d’un couloir où le silence se conjugue volontiers avec la méfiance et le scepticisme.
— Indie Rock Mag
Also released on the Line Imprint label is this 29 minute dronescape by Yann Novak, originally created as a sound performance for the Soundwave Biennal in San Francisco. Is is a symbiotic mixture of field recordings captured in the Golden Gate Park and synthesized sounds representing the architecture of the de Young Museum.
As expected, you can leave it up to Yann Novak to come up with a beautiful, “deep and meditative listening environment” that has the same effect as a revitalizing power nap: a 30 minute dive into eternity.
— Peter van Cooten, AmbientBlog
Yann Novak’s Surroundings (Line) captures a site-specific performance for the Hamon Observation Tower at SF’s de Young Museum; using its architecture as platform, he incorporates field recordings from Golden Gate Park and synthesized sounds within them mirroring the two locations’ symbiosis to create a deep listening environment—a quiet array of field sounds seeping through layered synth drones.
— Alan Lockett, Igloo Magazine
Surroundings first emerged as a site-specific sound performance commissioned for the Hamon Observation Tower at the de Young fine arts museum in San Francisco.
Yann Novak used the museum’s striking architecture to shape a spacious world of glistening, natural sound, and Surroundings explores its clean atmosphere. On top of that, a quiet array of field recordings, captured nearby in Golden Gate Park, bleed into gently layered synthesized drones; it inhabits a carefully balanced, settled space.
The light drone is inflated with a spell of liberated, risen air. Up above, a soft breeze blows against the cusp of the tower’s glass, and a kinder, barely-stirring wind blows through the park, rustling silent blades of grass. The music is glass-like, mirroring the tower. It somehow curves and is clear to the point of being translucent. It provides a great view – one of the best – of a city and its emerald stripes. Distant murmurs hint at a breathing city lying just on the horizon. Sounds quietly enter the music’s inner circle, passing through like a passenger jet on final approach, just a tiny blip on the radar, but instead of distancing itself from the noise, Surroundings chooses to embrace it. San Francisco’s heartbeat is here, with her admirable liberal qualities proudly displayed, accepting people from all walks of life.
The unobtrusive field recordings flow quietly, a streamlined source of sound surrounding the drone in a completely natural way. Everything is co-existing, all living in harmony with each other. A hundred lanes of grinding traffic converge and split, and a vast network of tributaries dissect the concrete blocks. Despite the downtown deadlock, Surroundings is a beautifully meditative piece, gazing upon the city with adoring eyes. It echoes the symbiotic relationship existing between the museum and the park, and between the park and the rest of the city. All is one – one unified state, one unified drone.
— James Catchpole, A Closer Listen