There are many mysteries behind Bathyscaphe Trieste, ones that keep me coming back to this album over and over again. At a first glance (and listen) it is easy to dismiss this work as an academical study into the unknown depths of sound, perhaps recorded with a hydrophone implanted on a submarine immersed in dark waters, capturing the noises of the previously unheard world. But nothing could be further from the truth. The generated frequencies on Bathyscaphe Trieste are all courtesy of analog synthesizers and slowed down tape manipulations, ascending from the mind of Jack Dangers, a name that somehow, in deep subconsciousness, rings a bell, and so I dive inside.
When I first hold the album in my hand, the cover of an X-rayed shell conveys the inner riddles of nature with its secret golden ratio spirals. The back of the album features a photograph of a massive submarine in dark green waters of an ocean, where sunlight barely seeps. The inner sleeve portrays some jellyfish, barely decipherable among the darkened cardboard insert. And the music? It’s deep and dark and faint as well. For my subsequent willing plunge, I place a good pair of closed-back headphones on, and let the tectonic and nebulous sound vibrate the jawbone of my skull.
Finally a word about Jack Dangers. If, like me, you have recognized this name as the man behind the Meat Beat Manifesto project from the ‘90s, you are not alone in your surprise. While I have admittedly only followed Meat Beat Manifesto through their early electronic releases on Mute, Interscope, and Metropolis labels, I wasn’t aware about these exploratory works under the Jack Dangers alias. Born John Stephen Corrigan, this analog synthesizer enthusiast has been collecting obscure audio material, as well as vintage synthesizers, and is rumored to own the only working EMS Synthi 100 modular system. His previous experimental albums under the Jack Dangers moniker include Forbidden Planet Explored (Important, 2004), Electronic Music from Tapelab (Important, 2004), and Music For Planetarium (Brainwashed, 2008).
For the seventh catalog entry on the mysterious Primary Numbers label, Corrigan simulates the low-frequency rumbling howls of barely audible sounds in an isothermal environment. The album is titled after a 1960 two-person free-diving self-propelled deep-sea submersible called the Challenger Deep, which reached a record depth in the deepest known point of Earth’s seabed hydrosphere in the Mariana Trench near Guam. Thanks to the gravitational pull, the descent took over five hours, while a gasoline filled balloon brought the “deep boat” back to the surface. The album is the product of years of work, and honors this particular journey, with intention of recreating the sounds at the bottom of our planet under extreme amounts of pressure.
On the very last track, appropriately titled “Resurface”, the abyssal sounds of a muffled drone slowly retreat into the upper register, bouncing against occasional simulated waves, and as my imagination finally emerges, I find myself gasping for air, still salty and cold. This is perhaps the closest aural experience to diving into deeper waters I will ever have. It also reminds me of NASA’s “Riding The Booster” video, where the sound was captured by the mounted camera microphone on the Solid Rocket Booster and shot into outer space before it crash-landed back into the ocean. Recommended for those interested in exploring inner depths of other worlds.
- Album sample Soundcloud