How Wheeling Feels When The Ground Walks Away is a sound collage made up of field recordings from various riots and incidents of unrest from around the world. They’re combined, layered and manipulated to produce a pummelling twenty-minute rush of unfettered and confusing fury that is at once terrifying and gripping.
The collage (I’m not going to call it music because, well, it isn’t) serves to place the listener in one of four situations depending on how you allow yourself to interpret it; that of participant, combatant, Samaritan or spectator. None of them are enviable – the first would make you unnecessarily violent; the second and third would put you at great risk; the fourth would make you feel helpless and voyeuristic. Part of the collage is from England (there are shouts of “Oi! Wanker!” and British police sirens near the end) and, as an Englishman, it made me feel both angry and ashamed. I’m not sure when it was recorded (it could be either political or sporting fury) but in light of what happened across the country this summer, it’s an uncomfortable reminder of how horribly out-of-hand things got and the lack of control anyone seemed to have over it. Unless you were in a position of power or one of the rioters, then all you could do was watch as London and several other cities got torn apart.
On the other hand I can’t deny that Hoff bringing me so ‘close to the action’ (as it were) doesn’t provide a thrill. There are hair-on-end moments here, such as when the crowd at a rock concert erupts to the lead singer’s cries of “make some noise!” Everybody knows what that feels like – the sweat, the crush, the rush of abandonment - and everybody loves it. But when it spills over into chaos and bottles start to break… well it’s up to you how it goes from there. Run and hide as people get hurt? Get involved and hurt other people? Or try and help out at the risk of being hurt yourself? It’s a dilemma I’d never thought I’d be mulling on a Wednesday night over a cup of tea and my laptop, with America’s Next Top Model on in the background. There is no dilemma when that’s on TV. I’d take the second option every time…
It might all sound a bit heavy, and it is. You’re not going to buy this to play at any parties, or put the baby to sleep with it. How Wheeling Feels When The Ground Walks Away was originally created as part of a New York art installation, but it does work incredibly well on LP, especially when turned up loud. It’s an endlessly fascinating and compelling listen – get stuck in.