For more than a decade, Toronto-based artist Steve Hamann has been crafting sound under the guise of SIGHUP, a project where Hamann combines his ambient/drone compositions with a wide array of personal field recordings. His latest release, under the Feedback Loop Label, is City Passage a meditative 3-track, 20-minute journey through Toronto’s urban soundscape.
Hamann explains that the concept of City Passage was inspired by “the daily routine of slowly passing through a city, a meditation on both listening to and ignoring the metropolitan experience.” Close listening seems to reveal Hamann traversing through industrial areas of the city due to the slow-moving, low-pitched mechanical sounds that are looped over churning metallic synth drones.
With the explosion of the Greater Toronto Area, along with the overhaul of its densely populated urban core, one wonders if this industrial-feeling rumination by Hamann is almost an attempt to capture a soundscape that is quickly fading (or perhaps faded) in the post-industrial world. After all, Toronto’s identity as an industrial center has long given way to that of a financial capital. But with that transition has come an explosion of construction as the financial sector has fueled a building boom, mainly in towering condos. It is impossible not to be overwhelmed by these high-rent waterfront citadels as one drives north on the Gardiner Expressway into the heart of this thriving metropolis.
So perhaps City Passage is a subtle commentary on this ramping up of construction, and perhaps the voice of what sounds like a young child in the title track “City Passage” symbolizes a sort of new urbanism in its infancy. Whatever it symbolizes, this looped recording is clearly the centerpiece of the album, as it is the most singular sound, as if the artists was building up to it all along.
Review by Jamie Moore