One of the many splendid discoveries at the recent Affair at the Jupiter Hotel was The Relay Project, the unassuming new audiomagazine published by former Spinanes frontwoman Rebecca Gates, and Lucy Raven, a painter and associate editor of Bomb magazine. Contained on one audio CD--no CD ROM graphics or click-through menus here--The Relay Project is designed as an exclusively aural sensation.
The news of an audiomagazine conjured up some yawn-inducing clichés: slam poetry, unlistenable audio geek sound art, patience-testing field recordings, and NPR-style reports from spelling bees or yodeling competitions. Every track on The Relay Project's debut issue, however, is a fresh spin on how diverse the medium can be. The first track, Gibtown, recorded by Joe Richman, is a Duplex Planet-style recording that listens in on circus sideshow retirees salivating over a plate of home fries, reminiscing over the bearded lady, and recalling the one-time proliferation of midgets in their community. There's also a heartbreakingly sweet clip of a young boy interviewing his grandmother about the decline of their neighborhood, and Portland's own e*rock contributes a musical fill while the editors segue into a mysterious answering machine message courtesy of Found magazine. Other gems include artists screwing around with Type 'n Speak, Augusta Citron's recollections of seeing the moon landing on Danish television," and Southern experimental storyteller turned born again Christian Barry Hannah proffering a rollicking meditation of failure, memory, and silence.
When I listened to The Relay Project for the first time, I was cleaning up around the house, checking email, and playing with the cats. The magazine doesn't work too well this way. In order to absorb the full effect, I had to stop everything, put my feet up, gaze at the ceiling, and let my ears take over for a while. As I listened to the diverse collection of clips, I thought of how very few of my regular experiences were relegated strictly to the ears. Most of my human communications are by email or face to face, and telephone conversations are usually tempered by distracting, mundane activities. To relax my other senses was to make my ears particularly sensitive, and the subtle charms of the magazine began to reveal themselves. Just that slight of a shift in absorbing information was enough to affect a change all day in how I listened to the world.