Recorded 2008–2010 in Balmerino, Berlin, Dundee,
Düsseldorf, Glasgow and Trondheim.
Perhaps better known for his radio works and recordings
with plunderphonic double act Vernon & Burns, this is
Mark Vernon’s first official solo release. Static Cinema
is the result of a series of musical improvisations using
household objects combined with both treated and un-
treated field recordings made in Scotland, Germany
and Norway between 2008 and 2010. An audio drama
missing its lead actors, Static Cinema explores several
evocative spaces with the roaming ear of the micro-
phone — capturing and interrogating them for meaning.
Dramatic perspective shifts equate to different scenes
or cuts with long shots, close-ups, pans and zooms.
The different recording locations function as spontaneous
mise-en-scène waiting in suspense for an event yet to
occur, or an actor still to make their entrance.
Mark Vernon has created entertaining and witty radio-
phonic records as one half of Vernon & Burns, and has
remained consistently surprising and innovative with his
musical and sound art endeavours. Compared to the
jollifications of the V&B records, Static Cinema is a much
more refined and restrained piece of work, characterised
by its quiet and gentle approach to the management and
organisation of sound, and it conveys a general aura of
mysterious events unfolding in a surreal, deserted land-
scape. In the assembly of these small and intimate
sounds, Mark Vernon successfully blurs edges between
music, sound art and field recording, at the same time
building intriguing environments for the listener to get
lost in. Track 1 is like a silent white-walled chamber,
while track 3 presents an impossible vista comprised of
staircases to nowhere, small electronic devices behaving
strangely, cars moving through the air, and a dog bark-
ing everywhere as though suspended upside down in
the sky as in a Chagall painting. Vernon had it in mind
to produce an audio drama where the lead actors are
missing from the equation, like a vintage BBC radio
three play where the dialogue is taken away and all that’s
left are the sound effects from the talented technicians,
and of course background music supplied by an idealised
version of the Radiophonic Workshop. Vernon achieved
all of this through juxtaposing recordings of his home-
made improvisations played on household objects with
an array of field recordings fetched from multiple locations
across Europe. His elliptical approach is brilliant, and his
understated imagination never falls asleep for a minute,
completely transcending the technique.
Ed Pinsent at The Sound Projector
Static Cinema, apparently Mark Vernon’s first solo CD,
is quite unlike the more citational, sample based work
he produces with Glaswegian Barry Burns in a duo known
as Vernon And Burns. Composed of in situ recordings of
everyday activity, as well as the clinking and shuffling
of various household items, this disc contains six leisurely
paced concrète collages. But where most artists would
denature the individual sounds with lightning-fast
cuts and juxtapositions, Vernon allows them to remain
recognisable, comfortable, even pedestrian. The drama
stays low-key, more concerned with capturing a sense
of space through quotidian gestures — an aural equiv-
alent of sunlit dust motes in an empty, creaky house.
William Hutson in The Wire
This new disc of six works is apparently [Vernon’s] first
official solo release. What we hear is probably closer to
musique concrete than anything else, but there is some-
thing indescribably original about this music I really like.
We hear just about everything thrown in here, from the
familiar bits of traffic sound and weather recordings to
a recurring, quite delightful capture of a dog barking in a
high pitched manner, to a man snoring, the music finding
a rhythmic pattern around his exhalations, to footsteps,
old records playing, and much more besides. There are
also plenty of sounds that are hard to identify, and feel
thoroughly musical, not like either field recordings
or household objects. Where the music feels different
to musique concrete as we generally understand it
however, and where it differs from the recent surge
of improvmeets-field recordings collage is perhaps
contained in the way the music is structured, or rather
in how it feels completely unstructured.
Very much to its credit, Static Cinema doesn’t sound
cluttered, doesn’t sound like an attempt to juxtapose
unlikely sounds against one another, but also somehow
doesn’t flow into any kind of stream of sounds. Things
just seem to appear calmly in the music wherever they
turn up, and after the initial bewilderment at the variety
of sounds on display it all feels very calm and natural,
even though there never really feels like any fixed
structure in place within the music. You don’t notice
when the tracks end, there is little to nothing to
distinguish one piece from the next, and yet there are
remarkable elements appearing all the time that make
you stop and take notice. There are odd wails, a lot of
vaguely percussive clatter, presumably sounds made
with the household items, and plenty of room for the
music to breathe as field recordings tend to join these
more immediate sounds one at a time and with a sense
of slow, gradual reveal rather than anything much that
really jars. To some extent it does sound quite cinematic,
and I do find myself picturing images of people creating
the sounds here, either as musicians finding sounds in
unusual objects or as the subjects of field recordings
catching them unexpectedly.
Richard Pinnell at The Watchful Ear
This version of Static Cinema was originally conceived
by Mark Vernon as the soundtrack element of an art
installation. In a room a female nude manikin stands
on a stage, limbs deliberately and flamboyantly
positioned. In front of her is a microphone. Behind her
a red backdrop, various chairs and a mirror. Nothing
moves. On the walls are projected images of objects
and spaces. From an unseen source sounds emerge.
Occasionally a melody surfaces. Objects rattle and
clink. Footsteps? Breathing? A dog barks. A kettle boils.
A thread is unfolding but it needs restructuring, and
there are probably as many new structures available
as there are listeners to Static Cinema.
This CD is necessarily one degree removed from the
total experience, as it can obviously only contain the
audio component. Knowing its genesis, it is hard not
to think of it as a soundtrack divorced from its visual
The first section brought to mind one of those large
rooms beloved of Tarkovsky. A quiet, fairly empty
interior. There are birds there as every now and then
one flutters near the microphone. There are chairs
being moved around and people banging around
somewhere else nearby. Strangeness takes over
eventually, and a delicate, simple three note tune
is plucked out on what might well be an egg slicer.
In a particularly effective episode glasses and bottles
suddenly begin to move of their own accord, rattling
in agitation. It is as if a ground tremor is taking place.
A physical, literally earth moving event conveyed
through the simple vibration of everyday objects.
Another instance of sound conjouring up a very
real flesh and blood presence is when we somehow
become aware that someone is sleeping close by.
A gentle rhythmic snoring. The feeling is of distinct
uneasiness, because if it actually is what it purports
to be, a covert intruder has crept into the sleeper’s
bedroom and secretly documented his breathing.
Beautifully recorded and positioned in the virtual
space of the stereo panorama, Static Cinema never-
theless appears to lack what David Lynch likes
to call the ‘Duck’s Eye’. A single jewel-like object
or event around which the construction is built.
A kind of axis for things to revolve around.
Chris Whitehead at The Field Reporter