Among the four tracks on Neil Milton‘s White Spring, Black Cloud is one rich with the chance interplay of radio signals. Milton credits the format to John Cage, who famously composed works based on what was currently floating about in the radio spectrum. (Cage also had a hysterical conversation once with Morton Feldman about Feldman’s distaste for public use of portable radios.) In this track, “Variations on ‘Radio Music’ by John Cage,” you hear voices male and female, young and old, in numerous languages — what may be a snippet of Neil Young at one point, enough Slavic languages to lend the whole thing a Cold War vibe, and countless snippets of white noise.
At first the noise is just that, a natural — well, a technologically inherent — aspect of turning the radio dial. But in time it serves more purposes: its flavor varies, it fades under the signal like background instrumentation, it hints at a fraying of coherence. The recorded signals aren’t all verbal. There is plenty of music, some of it so antique that it gives the radio the aura of a time machine, as if it were picking up waves from long ago, and the white noise comes to suggest temporal interference due to the time-travel equivalent of jet lag.