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John Atkinson

John Atkinson - Energy Fields - Digital

John Atkinson - Energy Fields - Digital

Regular price $6.00 USD
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On Energy Fields, John Atkinson uses his distinctive treatments of warped, microedited, and tuned field recordings to evoke our turbulent transition from fossil fuels to renewables in an era of climate change.

All of the album’s sounds were recorded during Atkinson’s September 2019 residency at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming – the largest coal-producing state in America as well as a burgeoning hub for renewables and carbon capture. These sounds of electrical hums, shuddering coal mines, roaring refineries, and gently clanking wind turbines, along with groaning bison, chattering cranes, and other wildlife, are reshaped into four tracks of heavy drone that veer from anxiety to awe, and from anthropocentric to transcendent.

“After more than fifteen years of writing about the energy transition in terms of technology, policy, and economics for my day job, I wanted to use sound to convey something more expressive and abstract about this massive shift,” says Atkinson. “The opportunity to travel through Wyoming and see and hear these systems up close was awesome, and it made me want to create something that captured the immensity and the sensuality of the processes that power our world, while also evoking the disturbing ways they’re impacting our environment.”

During his residency at Ucross, John transformed these sonic artifacts into sounds and tones, creating virtual instruments mapped onto a collection of gestural MIDI controllers. An April 2020 livestream performance curated by Andrew Weathers provided the opportunity to shape these sounds into a quartet of improvised songs, which John recorded live and then refined over a year and a half with Jeremy Scott of Civil Defense Studios in NYC to create Energy Fields.

"Instead of collaborating with other musicians, I was basically collaborating with the sounds of Wyoming’s energy infrastructure and wildlife,” says Atkinson. “In the absence of musical cues, I analyzed the frequencies of my field recordings to determine pitch structures for each song. From there, it was just a matter of processing and layering the field recordings into densely-collaged narrative arcs – in some ways, it felt like a drumless throwback to my work with Aa (Big A little a).”

Drawing inspiration from Tim Hecker’s Harmony in Ultraviolet, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s series Music from the Headlands Center for the Arts, and Oval’s noisier albums Ovalprocess and Ovalcommers, Atkinson’s approach transforms Wyoming’s massive energy infrastructure and spectacular natural vistas into a mesmerizing, steadily-evolving ocean of noise and song. In the process, Energy Fields evokes the more visceral and spiritual aspects of these systems of resource extraction and transformation that define our lives, yet are too often invisible and taken for granted. 



  1. Spiritual Electricity
  2. Black Thunder
  3. Casper
  4. World Wind


$2 from each album purchase will go to Terraset, a nonprofit that allows donors to directly support promising startups removing carbon from the atmosphere. Terraset supports companies using scalable technologies to remove and store carbon for centuries (or millennia) in a verifiable, permanent way. Wyoming has emerged as an early leader in this area, seeking to use its incredible geological gifts to bury and store carbon - even as it simultaneously unearths it through continued fossil fuel extraction.

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