A cool blend of contemporary & retro culture

Darkfield Radio’s ‘Knot’ not much of an adventure into stereophonic sound

There is a famous recording titled A Journey Into Stereo Sound: one of the world’s first ever demonstrations of stereophonic recording. Often referred to as a ‘special effects’ recording, the ‘journey’ actually takes the listener beyond simple sound effects and asks them to imagine they are actually there. It works in its own quaint way, thanks to the novelty (back then) of stereo sound and the manipulation of audio channels, left and right.

Whether the narrator veered the listener to imagine they were on a train platform or in an audience about to tune in to a symphony orchestra, with simple direction, clear recording and clever post-production, the effect worked well.

That recording was made in 1958 and although it is over 60 years old, you’ll find its quality is astonishingly good – especially considering it came out amid the more muffled likes Bill Haley’s Rockin’ The Joint and  Johnny Cash’s Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous.

Now, with today’s advanced technology – where any bedroom boffin can come up with their own quality recordings and remixes in a matter of minutes using inexpensive software – you’d think the bar would be raised far higher. That doesn’t appear to be the case when we tuned in to Darkfield Radio’s latest project, Knot.

Renowned for creating immersive audio projects, often enjoyed in groups at Fringe festivals and the like, Darkfield have given us such clever experiences as Séance, Flight and Coma. With Knot, they’ve kept the stay-at-home, isolated audience in mind, asking us to individually download their audio app and tune in at a specified time to stream 20- and 30-minute recordings. But the experience is just not very exciting, only a diluted, audio-only take on the blacked-out container experiences – which at least had a quasi-social aspect to them.

Asking us, prior to streaming, to sit ourselves down and imagine we are on a park bench, and then to move into our car for the second segment, had us thinking we may need to strap ourselves in for some real adventure. Instead, all we got was minimal innovative narrative, a lot of chatter in international accents, and repetition. Lots of repetition.

I got bored real quick and felt for my friends who had joined me for the ‘ride’, so I thought I’d add a little excitement to the experiences. Three-quarters of the way through the ‘park bench’ scenario, I got up and put my coffee cup up against their noses which put a smile on their face until they realised it was just me up to my tricks.

In the ‘car’ scenario, I kept starting up the engine and shifting gears to add effect to the experience – effect much needed. We even brought my pet Chihuahua into the car so that he could be a part of it, and I went so far as to put the headphones close to his ears. He simply stared at me, bored.

There is no reason why an international brand such as Darkfield couldn’t throw in a few Aussie accents, especially since voice-recording isn’t the most expensive exercise in the world, can be recorded and shared digitally, and knowing there are plenty of out-of-work voice actors begging for the work in Covid times. In short, though, it would be really nice to hear some local accents – let alone would it come across as more realistic.

We didn’t much care for the fact that accents of the actors were primarily British and American. It only served to alienate us. Here we were, in the comfort of our own home (or car) and suddenly we’re hearing these international folk speak with not one Australian accent heard.

One thing we could all agree on is that the sound quality is superlative.

If you’re into your stereophonic adventures, you might get a little something out of Knot. If you’re expecting something more exciting on the audio front – at least further on from A Journey Into Stereo Sound, you might be better served elsewhere online. I’m sure there are a bunch of podcasts that do a better job than this.

Sorry Darkfield, Knot’s not a winner.

Antonino Tati

For more information and to purchase tickets to the at-home audio experience Knot, visit darkfield.com.au/radio.

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