Shipwreck Radio Volume One: Seven Sonic Structures from Utvær
2004 November 2xCD UK ICR Distribution ICR41
500 In digipak
First 150 copies came with "Lofoten Deadhead"
Track Listing
Disc A
  1. June 15 (16:01)
  2. June 17 (30:39)
  3. July 24 (15:22)
Disc B
  1. June 5 (15:13)
  2. July 6 (15:02)
  3. June 3 (15:57)
  4. June 20 (15:26)
Sleeve Notes
Sleevenotes: Anne Hilde Neset & Rob Young
Cover design: Jonathan Coleclough
Photos: front cover Steven Stapleton - mirror men Colin Potter - cod & trolls Anne Hilde Neset
Thanks to: Anne Hilde Neset & Rob Young - Per Gunnar Tverbakk & Camilia Eeg - Ole Petter Refsedahl - Eivind Furnesvik - Lofotradioen - Mrs Livery - Alzetta & Parthena Kamara - Jonathan Coleclough - Paul Bradley
Between June & July 2004, as guests of Kunst I Nordland, NWW broadcast twenty four unexpected radio transmissions from the Arctic Lofoten Islands, seven of which are included here.

An ICR/United Dairies Production

JANUARY 1432...
"...We reached land at almost the fourth hour of night. As we approached, we observed that we were surrounded by underwater skerries; the waves broke against them. There is nothing the seaman fears more than having to lay ashore at night in unfamiliar waters. All our joy and consolation was suddenly turned to deep sorrow and despair, and waiting, we surrendered to our Lord... And the Lord took pity on us and helped us in our peril, for just as the boat hit one of the skerries, a wave arrived which, with one blow, lifted us off the rock, and we escaped unscathed. We edged continually closer to our isalnd of refuge, but nowhere could we find a beach where we could easily come ashore... Then a great miracle occurred: the Lord our Shepherd led us to the only existing beach, and tired and exhausted as migrated birds, we reached the shore..."
Thus Pietro Querini, a medieval Italian merchant, recorded the moment he and his crew were blown away off course from their intended destination in Flanders. The violent tempest carried them up the North Sea and pitched them onto the southernmost tip of the Lofoten islands, a tring of land shadowing the Northern coast of Norway, just above the Arctic Circle. As they later learnt, this was the tiny island of Røst, and the islanders - mostly fishermen - were bemused by these finely dressed aliens. Their immediate reaction was to offer help and clothing suitable for a life in temperatures of minus 20 degrees and under. Querini never forgot the hospitality of the people of Røst, and set up trade links in dried cod between Lofoten and Italy that survive to this day.

MAY 2004
Nearly 600 years later, Lofoten was revisited by Nurse With Wound's Steven Stapleton and Colin Potter in a conscious echo of Querini's experience. Bringing no instruments they were left in the tiny fishing village of Svolvær with minimal equipment, and told to get out and make whatever they wanted, sonically, out of their experiences of exploring the islands. The only catch was that three times a week, their work in progress had to be aired on the local radio station, Lofotradioen.
Lofoten never darkens in summer. The air was saturated with the background reek of drying cod, and the headless fish could be seen everywhere, dangling from huge wooden drying racks all over the island. Exploratory walks around the streets of towns like Svolvær , Kabelvåg and Henningsvær revealed strange homemade garden trolls, elves, organic effigies: knotty carved guardians of domesticity that reverberate with a deep rich pagan history.
Every single sound you hear is sourced from environments and objects in Lofoten: buildingd, ships, harbourside tackle, local characters encountered during the period of abandonment on the island. The broadcasts began with relatively untreated material but as the weeks went by, and our poor sailors became more and more hallucinatory, sounds, voices and textures are increasingly distorted, maltreated, mashed into a singular and vivid vision of a community and a place far outside the scope of everyday eyes. Listen for the gulls and terns, squeaking in the background. Or the sound of marching bands and crowds at the local festival, 'Codstock'. The clanging hulls of fishing trawlers and the metallic paraphernalia of a dockside becomes a thundering rhythmic pulse. Voices drifted in and out, from visiting arts officials to Lofoten's more invisible community, like the Namibian refugees Steven and Colin befriended in an apartment on the edge of town.
A memorial to Pietro Querini adorns the crest of a mountain on Sundøya, the neighbouring island to Røst, where his sailors were initially belched up by an unforgiving sea. No such statues for Nurse With Wound - but this music serves as living, breathing, clanging testament to the experience they survived.
Welkommen til Utvær. Welcome to Shipwreck Radio
Related Items
Steven Stapleton and Colin Potter's voluntary three-month banishment to the icy realms of Lofoten, Norway has borne fruit in the form of this double album on ICR. As was reported, these two prime movers of experimental sound were sent high above the Arctic Circle May through July of this year, with limited recording equipment and no musical instruments, to record a series of audio responses to their harsh environment, which were then transmitted to the local mariner's radio station at unannounced intervals. Stapleton and Potter have further edited and processed the original broadcasts, ending up with a total of two hours of sound, seven lengthy tracks. Shipwreck Radio works best when Stapleton and Potter seem to be genuinely interacting and responding to their alien, inhospitable environment, rather than falling back on familiar NWW strategies. The microcosmic sound world of ice slowly melting and cracking apart merge with the lonely, distant calls of arctic seabirds on the compelling "June 17," which slowly backslides into glacial crevasse where a mutually indecipherable conversation between Stapleton and a Norwegian child is repeatedly looped and mutated. Each track is named for the date that it was broadcast, and a handy map of the Lofoten Archipelago is printed on the discs themselves, showing the geographical location where each recording was made. When the artists seem to be most engaged with their environment - forming makeshift percussion out of blocks of ice, parts of vessels and disused metal scrap and transforming recordings of arctic creatures, water runoff and wind tunnel noises into organic drones - Shipwreck Radio really clicks as an album and a concept. On the opposite end of the spectrum are tracks like the album's opener "June 15," which renders the source recordings completely unrecognizable, digitally processing them into a distorted, post-industrial rhythmic dirge that wears out its welcome well before the ten-minute mark has been reached. Colin Potter's droning muse seems to have exerted a stronger influence on disc two, which exploits environmental noises and subtle looping and processing to create textural expanses of beautifully chilly ambience. "June 5" sounds like an orchestra slowly succumbing to the pulse-deadening effects of hypothermia, stretching out each chord to epic lengths, as ever more minute bits of audio detritus pan around the stereo channels. As the album trudges on, things become darker, more menacing and more sluggish, perhaps as a result of the inevitable fatigue experienced in such a hostile environment where the sun unmercifully shines for nearly 24 hours each day. There is an organic, impromptu feel to much of this music that lends it an immediacy not usually experienced with Nurse With Wound music, which often seems rather painstakingly processed, mutated and generally tortured to within an inch of its life. This helps the album operate as a sort of freeform travelogue or audio diary. The first edition of 100 copies came with a bonus disc, Lofoten Deadhead (a reference to the excerpted bit of Norwegian radio where a local explains why the Grateful Dead is "the ultimate band"), which contains more variations on the same audio sources, as well as a 30-minute track of untreated recordings of Stapleton and Potter experimenting with different methods of creating compelling noises from their surroundings, fussing about with objects and arguing with each other. It's unfortunate that this was not included on the album proper, as it is both entertaining and provides a glimpse into the duo's working methods that enriches the material on the other two discs. Taken together, even with its momentary lapses of originality, Shipwreck Radio is a fascinating entry in both artists' substantial discographies.

Jonathan Dean