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What is the City Hiding: Field Works debuts new LP at Luna on Sunday
Posted September 11, 2015 by Taylor Peters

Stuart Hyatt's work with the Indy Sound Map and Field Works flips a light on in my head. When I met him back in 2013 on the top floor of the Indianapolis City County Building, I could feel in my bones what he was getting at with all this field recording along Washington Street. Cities are puzzles of a billion pieces and if we're not careful we'll only ever see or engage with maybe 1% of them. And the crazy thing is that if we pay attention we might only knock that percentage up a handful of points into the 5-10% range. I think about this sometimes when I go out walking in my neighborhood. I even find myself filling my phone with voice memos of streams or birds or cars driving by and with photos of corners I never quite noticed.

 

Listen to excerpts from The National Road above

 

Back then we were talking about the release of his first album with the Field Works collective, The National Road. A collaborative LP with the likes of Nick Zammuto of The Books and Valerie Trebeljahr of Lali Puna, that record traced the complexity of life along one of Indianapolis' major arteries (Washington Street all the way west to all the way east) using field recordings, electronics, and a literary framework borrowed from Italo Calvino.

 

Hyatt and Field Works are back now with album number two: Pogue's Run. Field Works being what it is, viz. very much not a band in any traditional sense, there's a whole new crop of collaborators, including Rafael Anton Irisarri, Benoit Pioulard, Eluvium, and more. And that's just the musicians: this time Field Works includes photographer and videographer Jonathan Frey, Donna Gilbert, an environmental microbiologist, and many others. And all of it in service of considering the odd and now largely subterranean waterway Pogue's Run, the one that, according to the narration of the album's closing track "Pogue Walking Out," read by local actor Rich Komenich and accompanied on guitar by William Tyler,  "just hadn't fit with the vision of the expanding metropolis."

 

The album has two distinct sides. Side A is largely long-form drone and ambient pieces put together by Pioulard, Irisarri, and others. The music sounds intentionally designed to drift in and out of our attention, occasionally dropping down to only subconscious awareness, like we're walking on city streets above its sonic pulse.

 

Side B begins with the more expansive "What Is the City Hiding" by Hyatt himself, and broadens even further with the guitar and narration of "Pogue Walking Out." It is as if the album itself spends its runtime emerging, starting subtly and wordlessly, before winding up in a fantastical story about the back-from-the-dead co-founder of our city.

 

When I spoke with Hyatt about the album, he said he felt that Pogue's Run was more internally connected than The National Road, which despite its strength, at times felt a bit more like a compilation than an album from one musical entity. It's this sense of constant (re)emerging that hangs the whole project together, I think. We're following the music as it runs its course and eventuallly dribbles out, like Pogue's Run into the White River.

 

When Alexander Ralston laid out the plans for Indianapolis in 1815, the idea was to mimic the grid found in Washington D.C. But Pogue's Run, that mosquito-ridden "source of pestilence" threw a wrench in the south eastern quadrant of that orderly plan. According to the text in "Pogue Walking Out:" "There was a map and a pattern, and Pogue's dribbling little run had to be sent underground like a naughty school boy."

 

But the run was insistent even from underground. Back in the mid 80s, when the city was renovating Union Station, the architectural plans didn't warn the contstruction crews about the waterway buried beneath their feet. And so, as they dug and dug, eventually all that heavy gear caused the floor to give way and the water to well up. Once more with the narration: "That's rivers, large and small, mighty at one bend maybe, free or powerful or smooth and graceful, but in time they get swallowed up by something larger or they just disappear right down in to the ground." And eventually sometimes they sneak back.

 

Pogue's Run feels like a lovely meditation on some of those billions of puzzle pieces that have stacked and stacked since the founding of ours and every city. And what's most appealing about the whole Field Works endeavor is that it doesn't seem to have a firm answer or "solution" in mind. It operates like I imagine Hyatt does as he's collecting samples for his Indy Sound Map: he's content to point at something, spend time with it, ponder it, and then keep on walking, field recorder in hand, all the while quietly thinking, "isn't that interesting?"

 

This Sunday, September 13, Hyatt and company will celebrate the release of Pogue's Run at Luna Music, with a live performance of "Pogue Out Walking" from Komenich and Tyler, science field notes presented by Fikru Hailu, and the world premiere of a short film by Jonathan Frey "What is the City Hiding." The event is free and it's at 4pm.

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