I decided to devote some of my last week in Japan to doing some field recording, and I ended up spending a whole day recording trains but first I decided to go exploring in one of the industrial areas of Osaka. I did a bit of research online and narrowed down a location by a combination of checking out photos people had taken and then using Google Maps…
So the morning of October 24th 2012 I set off and caught a train from Namba, heading about an hour out on the Nankin line and getting off at Suwanomori Station, cross the tracks and then started walking…..
Eventually I arrived at the front entrance of a huge chemical factory, but there was no way to get close to anything without going through the security gate.. As I was wandering around aimlessly, a woman came over from the security office and asked if she could help me. I explained what I was up to, she went away and came back with a guy with a big map of the area and between it and the map on my iPad we worked out where I should go – so helpful! Turned out the woman had been to NZ a few years earlier, but more than anything I appreciated their help and the fact they didn’t question what I was doing as all day I felt a bit like an industrial spy, sneaking around trying to find good vantage points…
Anyway to get better access involved walking another three or four kilometres around the factory, into the actual port area…. And walking past this massive LPG storage facility along the way….
While it was visually interesting the first audible factory drone was coming from across the road, from this labyrinth of pipes which seemed like they had been formed into some kind of drive-in industrial nightmare…..
Next along the road was some kind of gas factory, the trucks in the photo below were getting filled up with a lovely hissing sound…
Next was this yellow building…. Yellow? Why yellow? Who knows but it could almost have been an incredibly large scale industrial artwork, with its gleaming skeletal frame & completely perplexing function….
By this point it was 4pm and as it gets dark in Osaka by 6pm at this time of year I was starting to think about how much other ground I could realistically cover…. I’d walked around the dock area and taken a lot of photos but sonically there was not a whole lot going on – a wide shot like this looks great but was sonically diffuse to the point of being less than inspiring….
So far all I had managed to really record were diffuse factory drones – I had imagined there would be more interesting sounds to be heard, but without getting access to the interior of these factories it seemed drones was all I was going to get… So I started heading back towards the train station, failing all else wondering if I could find somewhere to shoot an industrial sunset from…. when I started to hear these weird complex rhythmic metal sounds – ahar! This is more like it!
I ended up having to fight my way through bushes & trees to get closer to the source, and as fast as possible got my mics set up & hit record – I was still on public property but I wasn’t sure how my presence in the bushes (!?) would be interpreted, so I at least wanted to record some sounds before anyone found me… Thankfully no one did and I recorded until it seemed like the sounds weren’t changing much any more….. My DPA mics look quite at home amongst the vines twisted through the fence!
But the best was yet to come! I walked around the corner from this factory to discover it continued for about another three blocks and within a few hundred metres could hear this big subby rhythm eminating from the factory… I kept walking as it got louder to discover the source of the sound was only through one pane of glass from where I was standing, and unlike the previous ambience where the rhythm was fairly randomised, this had a big steady rock solid beat that felt like some kind of grungey slowed down hip hop or something…. The only problem at this location was traffic – it seemed a car came past every three of four bars of the beat, so I set up my mics and let it roll for about 30 minutes, to make sure I had a lot of clean material that I could cut together into a rhythmic ambience unpolluted by car passes….
I still have no idea what it was that was generating the sound, despite peering in through the window and actually being able to see some glowing object going up & down in sync with the beat…. But I did shoot a bunch of video of it & I have synced my recordings with the camera guidetrack so the sequence in the following video is sync, as per reality, for what thats worth…. But your guess is as good as mine as to what this pounding rhythm was actually pounding…. tempting to play rhodes on it though!
By now the light was fading, I was exhausted and still had a long walk to the train station…. But I was buzzing from knowing I had captured some great sounds… Here’s a few photos I shot on the walk home….