10 tracks. Total time - 38:01.
I’m not actually sure whether “Safe Passage” is music as we know it. The ten tracks on the album are soundscapes made up of location recordings, special effects, editing and audio treatments. Having said that I found the album a fascinating document of modern life and the systems that cocoon us throughout it. J.C. Combs is more of an audio-sculpturist, and I imagine that these ten tracks work best in a museum or exhibition space with some sort of corresponding video accompaniment. While listening to the CD I was reminded constantly of the old BBC Radiophonic and Sound Effect library discs that were so popular back in the 70-s and 80-s. But in this instance the sounds have been collated to tell a story or create an image in your head. Many of the tracks are quite short, sort of fragments caught on the ether, while others are longer and have more substance - some even have a psychedelic hue to them. A central core that runs throughout are the sounds of the city and that of the transit systems carrying people through its veins. Track titles include “Rikke’s Harbor”, “Cross Station”, “Dispatch”, “November 13, 2009”, “Abysmal”, “The Giant Eye of the 5-th Dimension”, “X503”, “Unrelated”, “Safe Passage” and “Trinity 666 - The Last Train To Hell”. I find myself playing “Safe Passage” quite frequently, hearing new sounds and collages with each listen. This is the soundtrack to exactly what I am not sure, but working out that is part of the fun of this album.
John M. Peters ("The Borderland")
“Safe Passage” is Seattle based composer J.C. Combs’ first release for the “Electroshock Records” label. Sub-titled “ImprovFriday Event Sessions”, the CD consists of works created by Combs for the weekly event of the same name the composer participates in with new music improvisers and sound artists who gather to share their works.
The album consists of 10 tracks, most under 4 minutes. My experience of experimental audio art is usually lengthier pieces that take time to evolve, which also gives me as a listener time to wrap my brain around them. These relatively short pieces, therefore, come across as audio sculpture snapshots. Standout tracks include “Cross Station”, a train station scene with crowds and announcer, embellished by percussion and electronic waves. “Dispatch” blends machine shop sounds, children’s toys, voices, and electronics. I enjoyed the percussion, electronics and efx’d voices, culminating in an intense ghostly ambience on “November 13, 2009”. “Abysmal” has a very interesting mix of field recordings from nature and associated soundscapes, plus a women singing to a pulsating musical sort of ambience. And the rollicking jazzy doo-dah band on the title track is combined with field recordings to intriguing affect.
There are two tracks on the CD that stretch out and develop a bit more. The 8+ minutes “The Giant Eye of the 5th Dimension” consists of spaced out electronics and soundscapes, plus various aquatic, urban, natural sounds and voices, and the piece even gets somewhat musical at times. The nearly 7 minute “Trinity 666 - The Last Train to Hell” features a man speaking in German combined with continually changing spiritual themed television and/or radio shows, train whistles, and tribal percussion. Near the last couple minutes things go briefly quiet and then the remainder of the track consists of light rain and thunder. A stimulating mix of sounds on this aptly titled piece and my favorite track of the set.
Spaceman33 (“Aural Innovations”)
A remarkable experimental work based in the combination of techniques of collage of sound with urban audio passages and musical atmospheres, this is a noteworthy album. The themes, with such titles as for example “Trinity 666 - The Last Train to Hell” (closing the album), “November 13, 2009”, or “The Giant Eye of the 5th Dimension”, are some sort of audio portraits, some realistic, others with supernatural touches, flowing from “folk” airs and “dark ambient” among other influences.
Dominique Chevant (“Amazing Sounds”)
After a long period of what seems like relative inactivity, “Electroshock Records” released at least a dozen new titles in 2010. “Safe Passage” is among the most interesting of those, but also one of the least musical in a conventional sense, being almost entirely made up of samples, field recordings and loops. These works were created by Combs for his “Improv Friday” events that began in early 2009. Quoting the liners: “The event is a venue where Combs and a troupe of new music improvisers and sound artists gather weekly to share their works”. Four tracks in, on “November 3, 2009” we finally hear the integration of a conventional musical instrument by way of some dense synthesizer textures. Following that, on “Abysmal” there is some muted singing that offers a haunting melody through a good part of that track. Later pieces incorporate incidental spoken text, TV samples, random sounds, incidental recordings of mysterious origins and such, some juxtaposed with synth patterns, samples and drones to hold the pieces together like glue. Every new listen reveals something new that seemingly was hidden or unnoticed before. Overall the disc explores the notion that sound sampling by itself is a worthy art form.
Peter Thelen (“Expose”)
The ten tracks on this album are soundscapes made up of location recordings, special effects, editing and audio treatments. “Safe Passage” is a fascinating document of modern life and the systems that cocoon us throughout it. J.C. Combs is more of an audio sculpturist who reminds us constantly of the old BBC Radiophonic and Sound Effect library discs. But, in this instance, the sounds have been collated to tell a story or create an image in your head - some even have a psychedelic hue to them! A central core that runs throughout are the sounds of the city and of the transit systems. This is the soundtrack to exactly what I am not sure, but working that out is part of the fun.
(“DWM” Music Company)