Regardless of the source material, a field recording artist’s goal is always to capture the distinct qualities of a certain location or species. What separates the good from the great, then, is whether or not they’re able to make such a distinction clear and exciting to the listener. The French-born, Taiwan-residing Yannick Dauby has always been particularly good at taking his recordings and compiling them in a way to maximize their intensity. With the ethnographically-minded Taî-pak thiaⁿ saⁿ piàn, Dauby guided us through the gorgeous sounds in and around Taipei. On Arches, he placed listeners inside a distressing landscape filled with the incessant howling of wolves. And then on Wā Jiè Méng Xūn, he wove modular synths and a choir of croaking frogs together into a playful and lively collage. Most of Dauby’s works aren’t “pure” field recordings but his editing is always purposeful and allows for an immersive experience.
Factory is no different; it starts with a simple drone that establishes the album’s ghastly atmosphere but what begins as a monochromatic fog subtly fleshes out into something more sinister. And in its first third, Factory is genuinely terrifying. The faint sounds of machinery suddenly take center stage and the tumbling, stomping, and rattling of various mechanical processes reverberate forcefully. However, there initially isn’t a rhythmic consistency to these noises and it only amplifies the record’s unsettling atmosphere. As a result, the industrial complex of Factory is decidedly different from the printing press of Pali Meursault’s Offset. Dauby isn’t pointing towards the innate musical qualities of the sounds here. Instead, he utilizes a sound design-focused approach with the varying source material to capture the lifeless place he considers this factory, as made clear in the album’s accompanying poem. This mood is so distinctly captured that halfway through the record, the constant rhythm we eventually hear from these machines is as bleak as the human voices alongside them.
With the numerous recordings that Dauby has made throughout his career, it’s clear that he’s immensely interested in exploring the richness of Taiwan’s culture. However, Factory feels more than just a simple constructing of a soundscape; the way he utilizes these recordings from the Xinzhuang district seem like a political statement, or at least a portrayal of his grief regarding the specific effects of industrialization in this region. The record concludes with an extended ambient passage that functions as a meditative postlude. Its static field recordings soon fade out and we’re left with the lonely echoes of a mallet instrument, a sort of acceptance of the current state of things.