Discography and Reviews

Here are Chris Watson's releases with the titles linked to the relevent page in the TouchShop. You can read reviews about his releases here:

In St Cuthbert's Time
El Tren Fantasma
Oceanus Pacificus
Number One
Weather Report
Star Switch On
Outside the Circle of Fire
Stepping into the Dark

Here are Chris Watson's releases with the titles linked to the relevent page in the TouchShop.

TO:89 In St Cuthbert;s Time

Digipak CD + 24pp booklet
4 tracks - 58:28

Photography: Maggie Watson
Art direction & Design: Jon Wozencroft
Sound mastering by Denis Blackham, Skye

Texts by Chris Watson, Dr David Petts, Lecturer in Archaeology / Associate Director of the Institute of Mediæval and Renaissance Studies 
Dept. of Archaeology
 Durham University, and Dr Fiona Gameson, St Cuthbert's Society, Durham

The Sounds of Lindisfarne and the Gospels

To celebrate the exhibition of the Lindisfarne Gospels on Palace Green, Durham from July to September 2013, award–winning wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson has researched the sonic environment of the Holy Island as it might have been experienced by St Cuthbert in 700 A.D.

Track listing:

1. Winter
2. Lencten
3. Sumor
4. Haerfest

He writes:

A 7th Century Soundscape of Lindisfarne

Throughout human history artists have been influenced by their surroundings and the sounds of the landscape they inhabit. When Eadfrith, the Bishop of Lindisfarne, was writing and illustrating the Lindisfarne Gospels on that island during the late 7th C. and early 8th C. he would have been immersed in the sounds of Holy Island whilst he created this remarkable work. This production aims to reflect upon the daily and seasonal aspects of the evolving variety of ambient sounds that accompanied life and work during that period of exceptional thought and creativity.

Chris Watson – sound recordist

With thanks to Professor Veronica Strang, Executive Director, Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University


St Cuthbert

Cuthbert was an Anglo Saxon monk, bishop and hermit who became prior of Lindisfarne in c. 665. In later life Cuthbert felt called to be a hermit and moved to the nearby island of Inner Farne to begin fighting the spiritual forces of evil in solitude.

Cuthbert became associated with the birds and other animals on the island and gave special protection to the Eider duck which is still known locally as Cuddy’s duck.

Buy Chris Watson "In St Cuthbert Time" in the TouchShop

TO:42V El Tren Fantasma - The Signal Man Mix

12" vinyl - 2 tracks - 14:50
Artwork: Jon Wozencroft

Track Listing:

01: El Divisadero - The Telegraph
02: Veracruz - The Tunnel

Buy Chris Watson "El Tren Fantasma - The Signal Man Mix" in the TouchShop

TO:42 El Tren Fantasma

CD in extended digipak -10 tracks - 65 minutes
Artwork: Jon Wozencroft

Track Listing:

01: La Anunciante
02: Los Mochis
03: Sierra Tarahumara
04: El Divisadero
05: Crucero La Joya
06: Chihuahua
07: Aguascalientes
08: Mexico D.F.
09: El Tajin; El dia y La noche
10: Veracruz

"Take the ghost train from Los Mochis to Veracruz and travel cross country, coast to coast, Pacific to Atlantic. Ride the rhythm of the rails on board the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (FNM) and the music of a journey that has now passed into history."

El Tren Fantasma, (The Ghost Train), is Chris Watson's 4th solo album for Touch, and his first since Weather Report in 2003, which was named as one of the albums you should hear before you die in The Guardian. A Radio programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 30 Oct, 2010, produced by Sarah Blunt, and described as "a thrilling acoustic journey across the heart of Mexico from Pacific to Atlantic coast using archive recordings to recreate a rail passenger service which no longer exists. It’s now more than a decade since FNM operated its last continuous passenger service across country. Chris Watson spent a month on board the train with some of the last passengers to travel this route. As sound recordist he was part of the film crew working on a programme in the BBC TV series Great Railways Journeys. Now, in this album, the journey of the ‘ghost train’ is recreated, evoking memories of a recent past, capturing the atmosphere, rhythms and sounds of human life, wildlife and the journey itself along the tracks of one of Mexico’s greatest engineering projects.

The radio broadcast received national press coverage in the UK:

The Observer:

It is over a decade since FNM operated its last continuous passenger service across the country but here sound recordist Chris Watson recreates its atmospheric journey with the help of the train recordings he made while working on the BBC television series Great Railway Journeys... through desert and city, but it is the rocking rhythms of the train itself that prove most memorable. [Stephanie Billen]

The Financial Times:

El Tren Fantasma (8pm) is Archive on 4's recollection of a trans-Mexico rail journey by sound recordist Chris Watson. From desert to rainforest, hummingbirds' wings to the boom of heat rising from the Copper Canyon, it recalls a beloved passenger train system abandoned by privatisation. **** [Martin Hoyle]

The Daily Telegraph:

Sometimes, radio can awaken the mind and sharpen the senses like no other medium. This "sound portrait" of a now-abandoned railway line that used to run between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Mexico is a good case in point. Captured by sound recordist Chris Watson more than a decade ago, it jostles with human, animal and mechanical life, filling the room with an atmosphere that is more richly evocative of Central America than any TV travel show I've seen. Diesel engines thrum, cicadas chirrup and passengers chatter, sing and argue. [Pete Naughton]

Buy Chris Watson "El Tren Fantasma" in the TouchShop

Tone 43 Cross-Pollination
Chris Watson & Marcus Davidson

CD in digipak - 2 tracks - 48:20
Art Direction: Jon Wozencroft
Cover image: Yusuke Murakami

Track Listing:

1. Chris Watson "Midnight at the Oasis" 28:03

The piece is a 28 minute time compression from sunset to sunrise in South Africa's Kalahari desert and features the dense and harmonic mosaic of delicate animal rhythms recorded in this remote habitat. "Midnight at the Oasis" was first performed at the Marquee in Parliament Street, York, on 13th September 2007 as part of SightSonic's contribution to the BA Festival of Science. The Kalahari desert is a vast and open space where most of the wildlife is nocturnal. After sunset the dunes, grasses and thorn bushes are patrolled by an emerging alien empire - the insects. Midnight at the Oasis' presents an unseen soundscape from this beautiful and hostile environment.

2. Chris Watson & Marcus Davidson "The Bee Symphony" 20:00

A project conceived by Chris Watson originally for "Pestival" in 2009 to explore the vocal harmonies between humans and honey bees in a unique choral collaboration around and within the hives of an English country garden. Recorded live at The Rymer Auditorium, Music Research Centre, University of York, England on December 17th 2010 by Tony Myatt, using a Soundfield SPS200 microphone recorded onto an Edirol R4 (surround version), and 2 x Neumann U87 microphones via Grace Microphone Preamplifiers, recorded onto an Edirol R44 (stereo version). Composed and arranged by Marcus Davidson using recordings made by Chris Watson & Mike Harding, and diffused through a 4.1 Genelec system by Chris Watson. The Bee Choir: Dylan de Buitlear, Lisa Coates, Steph Connor, Lewis Marlowe and Shendie McMath. With thanks to Peter Boardman (the event producer), Tom Emmett, Celia Frisby & Bridget Nicholls, who originally commissioned The Bee Symphony.

Marcus Davidson writes: "The first thing that struck me about the bees was how tuneful they were. During the day, their pitch was always based around A an octave below 440, the note we tune orchestras to. I found that the bees formed chords around the A, which varied depending on their mood. I spent time notating these bee chords, or note clusters, and as the bees sing easily in the human vocal range, I then scored the actual bee music for choir.

The sound of humans singing bees was strangely engaging. I thought it was reminiscent of Aboriginal music, perhaps showing how in tune with nature the native civilisations are. In fact, all the chords and 'tunes' in The Bee Symphony are taken from actual notes sung by the bees in the field recordings. The score was written so the choir sings exactly with different aspects of the bee song in real time, so hopefully we indeed have humans singing in harmony with bees!"

Buy Chris Watson & Marcus Davidson "Cross-Pollination" in the TouchShop

TS02 Oceanus Pacificus
Chris Watson

The voices and rhythms of the Humboldt current around the Galapagos Islands recorded April 2006 using a pair of Dolphin Ear Pro Hydrophones onto a NAGRA ARES-Pll digital audio recorder

Side A: 3m

Side B: 10m

locked grooves...

This release is now available from the TouchShop

Chris Watson ¬ BJNilsen

[Touch # Tone 27, 2006]
CD - 3 tracks

“During December 2000 several significant storm fronts developed across the North Sea and Scandinavia.

Benny remarked to me that he had recorded some of these on the Baltic coast and proposed a collaborative cd project based around our mutual interests in the rhythms and music created when the elements combine over land and out to sea.

We spent the next few years gathering recordings on our respective coastlines and islands during the very active weather windows during the autumnal equinox and winter solstice. This was focused around our following one particular cyclonic system, which veers over Snipe Point on Lindisfarne to the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, and finally descends upon Öland and Gotland where Benny listened in with a favourite pair of Sennheiser omnidirectional microphones.”

Number One
kk null Chris Watson z'ev
[Touch # Tone 24, 2005]

CD - 5 tracks

Traditional Noh correspondences for their 5 part cycle of plays.

Kazuyuki Kishino: electronics & electro-percussion produced January 2004.
Chris Watson: location sounds recorded in East Africa.
Z'ev: 25 binary-acoustic files produced January 2004.
Edits, assembling and mixes produced 20-24 March 2004.

Chris Watson sources:
1: dawn in acacia woodland. Rapid light and temperature changes.
2: vultures down on an animal carcass in the short grass plains. The intense activity of a feeding battle resolving into the song of a single sooty chat - the fire of midday.
3: elephant herd led by a powerful matriarch, grazing on the edge of a marsh… Gazelles and zebra swish through the long grass… Contact rumbles from the herd females.
4: the on-coming storm; wind rush and the deep smell of change. Low infrasonic thrum. Disorientation and confusion.
5: the amphibian chorus, enveloping yet impossible to locate. Rhythmic dusk and rapid darkness.

Weather Report
Chris Watson

[Touch # TO:47, 2003]
CD - 3 tracks

The weather has created and shaped all our habitats. Clearly it also has a profound and dynamic effect upon our lives and that of other animals. The three locations featured here all have moods and characters which are made tangible by the elements, and these periodic events are represented within by a form of time compression.

This is Chris's first foray into composition using his location recordings of wildlife and habitats - previously he has been concerned with describing and revealing the special atmosphere of a place by site specific, untreated location recordings. For the first time here he constructs collages of sounds, which evolve from a series of recordings made at the specific locations over varying periods of time.

Star Switch On
Chris Watson with AER/Biosphere/Fennesz/Hazard/Philip Jeck/Mika Vainio

[Touch # Tone 18, 2002]
CD - 8 tracks

Every two years or so, Touch has produced a sampler giving an overview of our current activities and affiliations. Following Touch 00 (2000), and even prefiguring its release, we wanted to make something that reflected the increasing reliance on the already recorded, whilst suggesting a more lateral approach to the use of source material. This first tendency is manifest everywhere, from tribute bands, to remixes, to updates or clones of earlier sound successes (Oasis and Blur vs. The Beatles and The Kinks, and so on). Another syndrome has developed whereby sounds are transformed by various software programmes, and what seems to be an innovation soon reveals itself to be generic.

"Star Switch On" is not an answer to such questions, but it is a reflection of the current obsession with ‘mapping’, ‘storing’ and ‘modulating’. We were interested in what would happen when artists were given a 'carte-blanche' to work with recordings that had a definite and undeniable subject, location and atmosphere - the wildlife sound recordings of Chris Watson published on “Stepping Into the Dark” (TO:27) and “Outside the Circle of Fire” (TO:37) – imagining a perverse take on library music, sampling, remix, all inadequate in denoting the soundscapes we hoped such a brief would encourage.

"Star Switch On" features two new recordings by Chris Watson, alongside Biosphere, Fennesz, Hazard, Mika Vainio, Philip Jeck and AER.

Outside the Circle of Fire
Chris Watson

[Touch # TO:37, 1998/2003]
CD - 22 tracks

The purr of a leopard close up against a baobab tree, waiting. Whales surfacing, breathing in cold air. Coll starling imitate the noise of farm machinery from the hollow ring of a ruined bothy. The rattle of wood over a black stream... Chris Watson's second CD is a dramatic contrast to the spacious atmospheres of "Stepping into the Dark" (Touch TO:27, 1996). Featuring 22 close-up recordings of animals, birds and insect life, "Outside the Circle of Fire" enlarges our awareness of the sound universe, intimate with voices from the past. There is an intensity here that television pictures cannot conjure.

Stepping into the Dark
Chris Watson

[Touch # TO:27, 1996]
CD - 12 tracks


Stepping into the Dark

[Touch # TO:27D, 2014]
Download - 12 tracks - zipped aiff file + pdf booklet & text

The tracks are the atmospheres of "special places", recorded with the use of camouflaged microphones.

Low Pressure Glen Cannich, Inverness-shire, Scotland
(57.21°N 04.57°W) 0810h 6 October 1994
Embleton Rookery Embleton, Northumberland, England
(55.30°N 01.38°W) 0600h 7 May 1983
The Crossroads Kiedler Forest, Northumberland, England
(55.09°N 02.27°W) 0620h 27 March 1994
River Mara At Dawn River Mara, Maasai Mara, Kenya
(01.25°S 35.07°E) 0615h 16 September 1994
A Passing View Los Olivitos, Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela
(10.46°N 71.02°W) 2350h 3 April 1991
Bosque Seco Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica
(10.49°N 85.39°W) 0540h 6 April 1995
Sunsets Breachacha, Island of Coll, Scotland
(56.36°N 06.37°W) 2230h 16 May 1994
The Blue Men Of The Minch Moray Firth, Scotland
(57.30°N 04.15°W) 1400h 30 July 1995
High Pressure Ravenstonedale, Cumbria, England
(54.25°N 02.24°W) 0550h 25 February 1994
Gahlitzerstrom Ummanz, Rügen Islands, Germany
(54.32°N 13.11°E) 1740h 5 October 1993
The Forest Path Meallan na Ceardaich, Glen Affric, Scotland
(57.19°N 04.52°W) 0625h 7 October 1994

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