Radio Lento podcast
117 Dartmoor birds through white noise mist

117 Dartmoor birds through white noise mist

April 30, 2022

Captured only a few weeks ago, this sound landscape is from a place where woodland birds sing through a mist of pristine white noise. A place empty of people. Empty of human made noise. And a place that we never thought we'd be able to get to... 

A gorge. On the edge of Dartmoor, where trees thick with velvety moss grow on steep banks, knee deep in foliage. Where a torrent of crystal clear water rushes down through stark craggy rocks. A perfect spot, there to be discovered along a footpath that eventually leads up to the Nine Maidens stone circle, and that winds, and loops around boulders, and that narrows and widens and then narrows again, and that often disappears into outcrops of blunt rocks, until eventually it levels off near a wooden bridge. A bridge that's there and waiting for you to cross from this bird rich bath of white noise, onto the ground that slopes up onto the exposed tops of Dartmoor. We left the microphones behind to capture the rich aural essence of it while we walked on. 

Discovering this remote spot was for us entirely thanks to the recently reopened train service from Exeter to Okehampton. We've made almost every Lento recording on-location and on shank's pony (old speak for travelling on foot, shank meaning leg). We cover the long distances by train and increasingly on rural bus routes. It means almost every location you hear through Radio lento is there for you to get to yourself, and reachable without a car. 

116 Sissing plantations in open country

116 Sissing plantations in open country

April 23, 2022

Stopped in our tracks some way along the path from Althorne to North Fambridge, by a sound. Plantations swaying in a gentle wind. The brightness. The softness. And a sound that comes in waves. Siffing, then sissing, then siffing again. Above, on warming thermals, skylarks circle and sing. Beyond, in the far distance, geese and other wild birds call.

But these are last year's crops, one of us says, into the unfamiliar warmth of a new spring breeze. Still there? Yes, unusually still there, and still making their own particular sound. A mile-wide sea of dry, wind waivering plants. As the breeze eases, the siffing and sissing subsides into darker tones. Shifting shadows, of last year's golden hues.

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We made this 25minute sound photograph of this wild wide open place last weekend on another walk along the River Crouch, this time going from Althorne to Fambridge. Farm machinery can sometimes be heard along with the distant activity of the residents of Althorne (extreme right) a remote hamlet in Essex and home of the Bridgemarsh Marina (episode 36).

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115 Coastal city sleeping (sleep safe)

115 Coastal city sleeping (sleep safe)

April 16, 2022

What makes that city noise at night? That strangely non-descript hum. That audible presence that seems to be made of nothing and everything, and comes from nowhere and everywhere, and that is so familiar to us city dwellers. Its origin is uncertain. Probably impossible to pin down. City hum does not exist outside of cities though, so that at least explains something. Perhaps that's its charm. That city hum can't be explained. And so why, like other things that cannot be fully explained, it seems to possess some very valuable properties. Especially to those seeking rest.

At night, city hum with its endless lulling flow, seeps in through every window open. Every door ajar. Aural balm, for tired minds. And it greets the garden wonderer, come out to look for stars, with a soft inky black message, that says, welcome, to the night. Welcome, to these tawny roosted hours, watched over by owls. To this other version of the same world, where light shrinks to speckled dots, and all that is, all that is anything, is there to be seen through listening. City hum ebbs and flows. Echoes with night birds, and susurates between countless details across landscape forms. Listening into it, really listening to hear into its depths, can be like counting sheep. Soft city sheep, come to help you listen, come to help you sleep.
 
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This is a section of an all night recording we made in Exeter a few days ago. It's in the back garden of a house from 1am. It captures the stillness of the city and two tawny owls against a backdrop of dreamy sounding seagulls. Exeter is in Devon, in the South West of England.

114 Crashing waves at Durdle Door

114 Crashing waves at Durdle Door

April 9, 2022

It's when you've been listening to it for a while, within the gravitational pull of this immense rock promontory, that it starts to make sense. The language of the crashing waves. And how each wave, as it arrives onto the shingle shore, has its own way.

Everything that a wave has to say about its long journey over the sea, has to be said upon the moment it lands on the shore. Within those few moments. Those few, tumultuous moments. A whole story in sound. All that it says though is tumbled out through noise. And all jumbled up too, if heard in land time.

To hear, properly, what each wave has to say, you have to attune your mind to sea time. Time, as it is in the liquid world. Time that surges and curls and folds and leaps and fizzes into bright white air. Listen forwards, and left and right, and into the near distance, and into the deep distance, and all at the same time. And it'll make sense. What each wave has to say, will be there. Will effortlessly unfurl in front of you. Each wave. Each arriving, with its own, unjumbled story.

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We made this recording last Thursday on the shingle beach looking out onto the stack and arch of Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, England. The name we use today for it dates back over a thousand years, when these crashing waves would have sounded exactly the same.

113 Spring’s here in mild valley

113 Spring’s here in mild valley

April 2, 2022

Sheltered against the gnarled trunk of an old holly tree, beside a country lane, the microphones are recording. Or maybe to them, they are looking. Looking out, as they have done for hours, at this mild valley, in sound. 

From this tree, the valley stretches far and wide. In front is a wide field. It slopes gently down and meets a stony rushing stream. Beyond, and up again across another field, is a farmhouse, partly hidden beneath tall winter worn trees. To the left of the scene, the stream passes into a ravine. Its steep sides reflect and amplify the soft white noise of the flowing water. To the right, animals graze on upland pastures. 

Here, is up in the Derbyshire hills. A place, that to us city dwellers, may feel like a place to retreat. But this is not all that it is. By visiting it, even through headphones and a bit of time, the meaning of this landscape can be observed, read and understood. The patterns of the wind in the tree. The ways the birds communicate, come and go. The distant murmurs of animals. Things that are heard best, when there is no human presence to interfere. This segment ends with the panoramic sound of passing geese as they fly along the course of the stream to reach the reservoir beyond, where they spend the day. 

112 Suffolk Wood (part 12) - 7am to 8am

112 Suffolk Wood (part 12) - 7am to 8am

March 26, 2022

Radio Lento is 2! Thank you for listening, for supporting, and for the many kind messages. It all started here, in this Suffolk Wood. So to celebrate we return, to hear how time passes within the wood between 7am and 8am. This is episode 112, and the twelfth part of the Suffolk Wood series. It's the penultimate one, with just one more hour from special location to come.

It's been and continues to be an absolute pleasure to share the aural records of time passing in many different places, and particularly from this wood, hour to hour, and in all its three dimensional and unedited form. The authentic sound of the landscape unfolding is what Radio Lento is all about.

Radio Lento remains a free service providing real sound landscapes in high definition long-form sound. Every recording is made on-location by us and using our own customised equipment. Our approach to sound recording is to intervene as little as possible during the recording and post-production process, leaving the microphones to record alone, so what comes through your headphones is true, like physically being there in that place yourself. It's all based on our thinking that, in this overly designed overly edited speeded-up view of the world, that a free and flowing source giving people the chance to, in solitude, experience time passing in the landscape, is probably now more important than ever.

If you can and you are able to >>make a small donation to help us cover the costs of production we'd be extremely grateful. 

111 Soundscenes of estuary rain

111 Soundscenes of estuary rain

March 19, 2022

For this week's episode we head back to the rugged seawall below Burnham-on-Crouch, to witness the sound of summer rain as it falls onto inland tidal water. We've not actually listened back to this audio before, and preparing it has been a labour of love. Labour, because the hundreds of rain drops that hit the lid of our microphone box have had to be individually treated to volume match all the other rain drops! Of love, because each hour we spent doing this, has been another hour spent immersed, within this truly wild and evocative place. And given these troubled times, it's made for some pure and simple escapism that's just so needed.

Daylight has come, and from left to right, the pattering of rain melds with the cries of estuary birds. Redshank, gulls, curlew.  Tidal flows come and go, swirling and swilling, over the concrete blocks that form the seawall. Distant signs of habitation waft in from the west (hard right of the soundview), while from the east (left), nothing but the natural world. Well almost, there are a few soft passing planes, flying inland from the North Sea. Somewhere high. Somewhere beyond the deep, grey clouds. 

We were able to capture this passage of time in August last year, by leaving our microphones alone to record from evening, through the night, and into the morning of the next day. When we retrieved the kit, everything was unsurprisingly soaked and wringing wet. Amazingly though, while the electronics inside the box had got wet too, the kit was still recording!

We hope the captured sound of time passing beside these wild and open tidal waters may bring you some relief, as it has us, during this difficult and most taxing of times.

110 Rain falls in Banfield Wood

110 Rain falls in Banfield Wood

March 12, 2022

Sky greying. Rain coming. A muddy path under bare trees. This is the wood where we should record.

Beneath a buzzard circling, a perfect tree, mid-point within the forest. Mid-point, with a wide and detailed aural view, of boughs moving in the wind, of light sticks shifting, of silent fields sloping up to a green grey horizon.

The rain begins. It starts gently, as a fine sifting mist upon the ivy leaves that surround the trunk of this old tree. The tree, an elder, basks in the falling water, creaks in the changing air. On the forest floor the rain falls heavier, is scattered and blown in flurries. Above, banks of wind make passing shapes in the high bare branches.

Spring is coming though, and you can tell by the birds. Great tits, long tail tits, a jovial wood pigeon. Between the bands of rain they hop out from their sheltered places, and sing. Their song makes this not a winter wood anymore, but a place filled with the sounds of the approaching vernal equinox.  

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Last weekend we left our microphones alone to make this recording in Banfield Wood, rural Hertfordshire. It is the next wood across the valley from Comb's Wood which featured in episode 104 'While away in winter woodland' which we recorded in December. 

109 Here at the river’s edge

109 Here at the river’s edge

March 5, 2022

Now you're here, unhook the burden, and let it rest upon the wild grass. Walk away. Away from it, and down, onto the rocks. Away, and over the wetted stones, around the weeds that smell of sea, and right up to the river's edge. The rushing edge of the Crouch. Yes that tidal river, that unheard of river that runs like a forgotten dream, across the wilds of the Dengie Peninsula. Here, is your journeys-end. And what you've come for. 

And now you're here, you can breathe. Breathe, and look about. Breathe, and listen. Take it in. In, all of it. All of this landscape, with its simple, natural, emptiness. This hurrying water. Crystal clear. Crystal clear and spinning, and curling, in wind folded waves. Feel the wind, how it buffets your face. Tugs at your jacket. Hear it, sweeping the waves, this way and that, from left to right, right to left. Wind against tide. 

A few inches beneath the flowing surface, you see some tiny little trees. Submerged plants, wind-bent in the strong current. You crouch down, reach forward, and dip your hand in. It's another world. A clear translucent world, of pure cold. Fingers wavering, you cradle one of the little trees. It feels like rubber. A tiny, little, rubbery tree. Anchored, and growing almost impossibly, out of the bare river bedrock. It's living. What a wonder of nature, you think. What a wonder of nature, cries a bird. A redshank. Two redshanks, flying directly overhead. With fingers still cradling the tiny plant, you look up. Up at them calling, and as a child again, into the too bright sky. 

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We made this recording last Friday at a remote spot on the river Crouch, as it was washed about by extremely strong wind. It's about a mile due east from the Bridgemarsh Marina in Althorn, Essex. The new wind baffles we attached for episode 108 were severely tested. Redshank, distant geese, an overflying seaplane and the train on the line to Southminster can also be heard.

108 Song thrush sings in twilight gales

108 Song thrush sings in twilight gales

February 26, 2022

We were told a song thrush lives up in the wood. The old place on the side of an exposed and remote hill, where sheep are kept in a paddock under the shelter of trees. Tall firs, holly trees, hawthorn and a tangle of thorny briars. For a moment, the pure repeated notes of that ethereal bird, that musical songster of echoing forests, rang out somewhere in our imaginations. Another gale was forecast though, and to try for a recording we'd have to hurry. Our mic box, tattered after months of outdoor use, needed new wind baffles.

We quickly cut and pinned fresh squares of fluffy acoustically transparent fabric onto the box. Drawing pins proved the best. Sat at the kitchen table, on one side the wall clock ticked.  On the other, flurries of hail rattled against the windows. Real weather was coming. In an hour we were out. 

Striding up the moor, along its steep stony lane, sleet rained down in freezing waves. It made the widely spaced bars of the cattle grids even more treacherous than usual. The high grassland was waterlogged. Through deep puddled trenches and along the rough track we went. The sky stripes of bright, and grey. Then we reached it, perched on the sloping moor, the dignified shelter of the old wood. The deep hushing space of the wood. The wood where the song thrush lives.
 
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We made this recording last week on the flanks of Black Hill in Derbyshire. This segment is from twilight to dark. The mic box was attached to an ancient holly tree covered in a stocking of moss, facing out over the paddock towards banks of tall fir trees. The song thrush did sing as did a robin, which for a short time perches directly above the kit. Sheep briefly baa too. This sound photograph captures the scene, a panoramic movement of fir and holly trees as they absorb the energy of the oncoming gale.

107 Shellness bleak where land meets sea (best heard with time and headphones)

107 Shellness bleak where land meets sea (best heard with time and headphones)

February 19, 2022

This, is bleak. Wave, weather worn, bleak. Windswept, land end bleak. What we've come for. An exposed area of land that noses out into the North Sea. Its tidal zones are made of bleached dry shells instead of sand. Of saline rotted timbered fences, some sunk waist deep, in time rounded, long shore drifted stones. And of shallow racing waves, blown sideways. This is Shellness, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

Dazzled at the water's edge by a low, February sun. Blasted by wind. Too much. So about turn and up the beach you go, through ankle deep shells, to look for shelter. A place found, beside the ramped seawall. A squat concrete block. A Second World War pillbox. 

Back lent against, and out of the wind. And looking down the coastline at right angles to the rushing waves. At the desolate boundary between land and sea. And slowly, hearing it, as a corridor of emptiness. Nestled within this dim shadow, you can hear how this world is split. to the left, land. Its Swishing grasses. And to the right about a hundred yards, the North Sea. Its constant onshore flow. In time here becomes, not an empty place, but a place where each thing heard, each thing waited for, however slight, is somehow greater, more significant. A sparse few rugged birds. The warm, eventual hum, of a passing propeller plane. And an impression, that the tide might very gradually, be coming in.

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Our grateful thanks go to Ian, who we have connected with on Twitter. He met us off the train and drove us out over an extremely rough track to reach this remote spot. Without Ian, his local knowledge and willingness to sacrifice his car's suspension, we couldn't have made this recording.

106 In time the wren will come - Murmurs of the Kerry Ridgeway

106 In time the wren will come - Murmurs of the Kerry Ridgeway

February 12, 2022

Cold clear water flows, through a dell beneath trees. Hidden behind brambles. A place for the foraging bee. Here, is a place that's miles away. Is a place, steep down beside a country road, that's left alone.  

Chiffchaff, mistle thrush, pheasant, great tit, rook, wood pigeon, wren. All singing and calling. All free to be themselves in this remote, almost wilderness.

It's a mid week morning in April. Another working day for people, just begun. Beneath their few passing cars, behind the brambles, down the dell, the stream flows. Flows on, and flows steadily. An open secret, rich with birdsong, that they'll never get to know. 

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This section is from a twelve hour unattended recording we made up in the hills of mid Wales in 2019. Human made noise levels are extremely low. At one point a wren perches on the tree where we left the microphones, and sings directly overhead. The stream you hear runs from left to right of the soundview, and down the valley into Ceri, a village in Montgomeryshire, Powys.

Listen to other episodes in this series.

105 Boy dog beach fossils

105 Boy dog beach fossils

February 5, 2022

It was last weekend when we made a long train journey out to the North Essex coast, to reach Walton-on-the-Naze. We planned the trip because our maps showed it to be an area out on a limb, and free of major roads. Finding good potential locations for making quiet recordings is very much a main mission for us these days. Quiet is a scarce resource. Long periods of quiet, in wide open landscapes, is even rarer. Scarcer, and even more valuable.

Stepping off the train, we could see Felixstowe across the other side of the estuary. As we walked towards the town with a scattering of other just arriveds, our kit bag with the mics sounded noisy. Something inside, perhaps the metal tripod, knocked and rattled. Shifting it about didn't work. On towards the sea. On past the closed off-season shops. And then we realised. It always takes a while for us city dwellers to realise. It's not the bag that's started rattling. It's the quietness of this place!

Arriving at the nature reserve, along the stony coastal path, an information board told of the rocks being of the eocene epoch, of yielding sharks teeth and other fossils. The land around us had mostly emptied of human things. So down onto the sand we strode, wind cuffing in our ears, we headed straight to walk along the bottom of the chalk cliffs.

It was the sound of a fresh water stream-let that caught our attention. Trickling down the weather-beaten and sea-eroded cliff, forming a small clear pool. A pool surrounded by sand, and by chunks of fallen rock. Chalky, forgiving rocks, some brittle, that break apart within the hand. We played with the rocks and turned to listen to the sea. How the cliff wall mirrored the crashing waves, seemed to emphasise its light blue grey tones. A crisp, bright, wide openness, blended with the contented voices of children, searching for fossils, and couples, walking their dogs. 

A good place to record. A good place to take this sound photograph of the beachscape, in January, at Walton-on-the-Naze.

104 While away in winter woodland (a clear mind special)

104 While away in winter woodland (a clear mind special)

January 29, 2022

December is a very quiet month for natural sound out here in the walkable wilderness. Wind moaning in the telegraph wires, and rain spattering into flooded puddles. And when you reach them, the woods, down long lanes and a muddy footpath, the song birds haven't yet begun to sing. But stop, qwell the noise of your boots, and listen. Wait.... Let all sense of motion go. A few moments are all that's needed.

It comes, more as a feeling than a sound, though it comes from sound. An awareness, of the surrounding wood. The wood as one, huge, still presence. One, huge, reverberant reservoir, of hushing quiet, that has you immersed within it. The wind rises, and falls. The calls of distant birds echo through the voids. Occasionally, the creaking sound, as solid tree trunks bend with the pressure of moving air.

The hushing is made as the banks of cold winter wind brush over the high tree tops, and through into the countless boughs and bare branches. Each one, each bough and branch, each one in their thousands, in their millions, generates small trails of invisible, turbulent air. White noise streamers, that shower down, to land on our ears. We hear it, as waves of infinitely spatial hushing. The sound of the whole forest, as it brushes against the wind.

This was recorded in Comb's Wood, Hertfordshire in December. 

103 Tidal breakers winter beach - in HD sound

103 Tidal breakers winter beach - in HD sound

January 22, 2022

How it is, that a winter weekend city walk, can end up like this - by the seaside! How an inner city landscape, with its roads and concrete valleys between misty mid-distance skyscrapers, can be faded from consciousness by simply hopping over one, very long, brick wall. 

So up and over the flood wall you go, with its curved brick top, and down you drop, not onto but into, something else. Something else entirely. Beach! 

Yes a beach. A real beach! A wild watery foreshore, with blustery winds, and rushing white horses, and liberating rejuvenating scrunchy shingle under foot. You walk, over the unsteady ground, with a rolling swagger. You walk, right up to the water's edge, right into its bright white noise, its refreshing spray. 

And everything, from only moments ago, is suddenly forgotten. Forgotten because now you remember. Remember what it is you are living for. This! Children playing amongst bright ringing stones. The thrum of deep channel cruisers. An accidentally discovered beach, beside the Thames, at Rotherhithe. Tidal breakers. Winter beach.

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