Cole Peters

Visual/sound artist

Traces Blurs Signs

EP (ltd edition cassette, digital download)

2023/04, Park70

Stream and purchase on Bandcamp

I made these recordings in the winter of 2021–22. Listening to the snow. And ice. And silence. And amplifying the sounds between my four walls. Dissecting the sounds of before, and waiting for the sounds of after.

Winter on the plains of Canada is a notoriously bleak and protracted affair, typically sprawling from November through the end of April (although blizzards in May are not uncommon). Temperatures plummet to abysmal depths, snow becomes a totality, wind reshapes the terrain.

Even amidst such hostile standards, the winter that birthed 2022 was by far the most extreme I have experienced during my time here. By February alone, nearly 160cm of snow had fallen in the city of Winnipeg — the third highest snowfall on record since 1873. Travel by road became more dangerous than usual, while sidewalks remained impassible for weeks at a time, effectively trapping many residents at home — a situation formed as much by meteorology as by mounting failures of municipal management. Meanwhile, such high levels of snowfall necessarily reduced exposure to sunlight (and attendant levels of serotonin with it). Following two years of a raging pandemic, a winter of this magnitude was a recipe for dysphoria at best.

My perception of this period of time was marked most acutely by a sense of disarticulation. Night and day, rooms and buildings, people and places, my body and the objects in its proximity… the edges between things were becoming soft, as though buried in snow or fading to television static. The exploration of a sense of geographic and temporal stasis was a strong influence on my previous recording. As this winter wore on, however, my thoughts turned from interpretations of locale and time to more personal examinations — driven, in retrospect, by the effects of climate and politics on my mental and physical wellbeing.

This, then, is the background against which these recordings emerged. Much of my work in making them was substantially less mediated by formal process in comparison to other recent works; I simply felt the need to absorb myself in sound as a constructive distraction. Confined as I often was to my apartment, many of the sound sources in these works are domestic in nature; I also incorporated exterior recordings from my archives, and a few new ones made during rare opportunities for venturing outside the city, as a contrast in both time and space. I had no direction in mind as I worked, and even after finalizing the compositions, I had great difficulty in attempting to write anything coherent about them. As I look back on this work with the benefit of a year’s hindsight, however, a better understanding presents itself.

A practice I learned some years ago through cognitive behavioural therapy is to redirect one’s focus from the mind to the body during times of emotional distress. By interrupting ruminating or anxious thoughts and bringing one’s whole attention to internal, physical aspects such as breath and posture, one is able to reaffirm one’s presence as an agentive individual, rather than as a canvas upon which emotions and events are enacted.

My response to the sense of disarticulation that I felt could be seen as a similar strategy — one of articulation of my immediate surroundings and artefacts through sound, particularly via the use of contact microphones to transduce surface vibrations, and the placement of acoustic microphones within distinct physical spaces and objects. In so doing, perhaps my goal — however subconscious — was one of reaffirming my physical autonomy and inhabited space.

Amusingly, this time spent in reaction to a sense of constriction has, in retrospect, served to expand both my listening and sense of direction for future work, and I look forward to further exploring the avenues these investigations in sound have revealed to me.

Composed and assembled December 2021 – March 2022 from new and archival recordings, found sounds, and analog synthesis.

Mastered by Lawrence English at Negative Space.

The title ‘Traces Blurs Signs’ is sourced from the short story Ping by Samuel Beckett.