They rattle like the wheels on an old covered wagon. What we’re hearing, though, is not wheels but what the wheels might have trampelled, the brittle foliage of the west. There is in the track, according to its brief descriptive note, “wild fennel, pine trees and thistle,” the latter of which provides the track’s name (MP3).
The result is a survey of rough scratching, tactile noises that edge toward erasing the ephemeral nature of digital recording. And while wagon wheels play no role in “Thistle,” which was created by Oakland, California, musician Jen Boyd, a record player (as pictured above) does (the liner note continues: “Additional sounds include multiple layers of a running hard drive and a thistle on a turntable”). It’s unclear if the intention is to associate the technology that enabled the vinyl record with the distant, rustic past of the western. But there’s certainly a celebration of the turntable’s mechanism (along with that of the hard drive) as a source of sound that’s essentially no less natural than weeds.