The sound landscape of AJ Cornell and Tim Darcy is a forest of poetry and experimental noise.
“Spit of the 1980s,” a track on Andrea-Jane Cornell and Tim Darcy’s new album Too Significant to Ignore, has Darcy reciting the lines: Driving through the wide gaping O of the United States of America. Head out the window, screaming I want my past back. Screaming I want my past back.
I experienced the album through an image fostered by this line — a poet reciting poetry with his head out the window. Here, the wordsmith is Darcy and the passing landscape is sound artist Cornell: The hollow stretches of a lone synth, the whipping and dripping noises of field recordings, a spectrum of sound. Interacting with it, Darcy’s words sometimes quiver like they’re caught in a fan or they smooth out and gently sway in the wind of the noise, like an arm moving in the 70 mph space on a freeway. Window open, the poetry — blooming disparagement and futility as much as hope — is aired out of self-importance.
Released by Vermont-based cassette and record label, NNA tapes, the pairing of Cornell and Darcy, both of Montreal, makes for a collaboration that would appeal to noise/experimental music fans and traditional poetry lovers alike. Cornell’s synthesizer and field recordings resemble empty forests as much as the eerie hum and buzz of concrete basements. You know the way your breath sounds — and feels —when you’re under water? Its volume is omnipresent, but not because it is louder but because the sound fills your whole head, amplified and swollen. That’s how Darcy’s words come across with Cornell’s sounds.
His slow drawl is good for storytelling, for poetry reading. He sounds aged although I envision a young man. He’s a vigilant narrator, and his broadcasted thoughts are like the social media posts that stop you for their privacy exposure or the ones that replace your feelings of alienation with those of anonymity. I felt Cornell and Darcy communicated the fear and comfort that comes with that — we are all alienated in a room of aliens.
It’s poetry with the windows wide open — our heads with all their unceasing thoughts are out in the air and the sounds of the passing landscape are allowed into our ears.