Published May 04, 2020Behind this rather understated cover, a virtual who's who of contemporary electronic music has come together to produce a brilliant new entry in Stuart Hyatt's Field Works series. We are treated to 14 electronic ambient compositions, each featuring bat echolocations as source material.
That's right, bats. As in maybe the world's most feared creature post-COVID-19. Never mind all that. This 73 minute collection is beautiful, surprising and a little bit creepy – sometimes all at once.
Ultrasonic is the seventh recording in the Field Works series, which premiered in 2018. Hyatt is a Grammy-nominated artist with an interest in "marginalized communities, at-risk species and habitats and our complicated relationship with the natural world," according to his official bio.
Previous releases in the series have featured Wyatt's recordings of Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, a special listen to the Indiana State Fair during the state's 200th birthday celebrations, and a two-part recording that paired deep-space sounds with those from our own planet's underground.
Ultrasonic is part of a larger project dedicated to the endangered Indiana bat, funded by the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute and the National Geographic Society.
Generally, compilation discs like this can lack cohesiveness. Certainly there is a wealth of talent on display here: Felicia Atkinson, Christina Vantzou, Taylor Deupree, Chihei Hatakeyama, Kelly Moran, Machinefabriek and Sarah Davachi offer the album's brightest highlights. It's the kind of lineup that might well produce a disjointed collection of great music, and that would be just fine with most of us.
Hyatt's Field Works series aims higher. He's not just able to attract great artists: the themes he chooses and the field recordings he produces are strong enough to tie the work together. In this way, he continues to produce collections that have both artistic and social merit.