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Philip Samartzis
 Soft and Loud (Plates of Sound) LP

 The original CD edition of Australian sound artist Philip Samartzis’ Soft and Loud was one of my favorite releases of 2004. Using a collection of field recordings made in Japan during a series of extended visits, the record is an exquisitely constructed and utterly fascinating portrait of contemporary Japan as heard through the ears of an outsider. Samartzis combines and juxtaposes everyday sounds, ranging from a gentle breeze blowing through a forest to the blaring cacophony of a pachinko parlor, to create an engrossing composition that is stitched out of a series of precisely rendered auditory vignettes that shift as quickly from the abstract to the half-familiar as they do from soft to loud.

First released last year on Samartzis’ own Microphonics imprint, the CD version of Soft and Loud was always hard to come by and all too quickly went out of print. Now, thankfully, a local Boston label called Plates of Sound has released a deluxe 180 gram vinyl edition of the record, which includes Samartizis’ liner notes in both English and Japanese. It is truly a revelation and is one of best sounding pieces of vinyl I’ve heard in some time (the dynamics are simply stunning, revealing even the finest details within Samartzis’ work). One of my very favorite releases of 2005.


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