BTV085 Soporus : 24,110 cd

24,110 (btv085)
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Track listing:
1. Chalk River
2. Good Luck In Your Road
3. 3.28.79 Part II
4. Project Salt Vault
5. Lelechenky
6. Tokaimura
7. Bragg
8. Peabody
9. Fukushima
10. 3.28.79 Part III
11. Chalk River Part II
As children of the Cold War era, Soporus are heavily influenced by a lifelong fascination with the quiet power of nuclear energy – the seemingly miraculous ability to calmly harness intense reactions coupled with the lingering fear of potential disaster. Soporus continue with the nuclear power plant themes established on their debut ep, Atómové Elektrárne, with their full-length 24,110.

Soporus is a Philadelphia-based ambient drone ensemble which features guitarist and keyboardist Matthew Stone and bassist William Stichter from well-known instrumental act Saxon Shore along with guitarist Stephen Hoffman. Additional guitar tracks were provided on the album by James Vella (Yndi Halda, a lily) and John Donohue. The live performance also features films and videos edited on the fly by additional member Michael Stichter.

24,110 is the half-life in years of the Plutonium-239 isotope. In nuclear fission reactions that take place in a nuclear power plant, plutonium isotopes are a waste product with Plutonium-239 being the largest component. Plutonium-239 is also the main radioactive material in nuclear weaponry. It is that contrast between usefulness and deadliness that frames Soporus’ layered shimmering ambient guitar washes, droning bass, and lush keyboards that meander between quiet, soaring beauty and droning noise. Like the peacefulness of a sleek cooling tower in the distance, slowly billowing out beautiful soft clouds of white steam while the reactor below contains the ingredients that power our society but also have the potential to annihilate us all.

The opening track “Chalk River” refers to a site in Canada which manufactures a large percentage of the world’s supply of medical isotopes. Though chartered to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Chalk River also supplied substantial amounts of Plutonium-239 to the United States for weapons manufacture during the Cold War.

“Good Luck In Your Road” is the English translation of a sign outside of Pripyat, the site of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and makes use of Geiger counter sample noise. “Lelechenky” is the name given to an art/dance collective formed by children who survived the Chernobyl disaster. They perform traditional Ukranian dances and sing Ukranian folk songs to raise money for children affected by Chernobyl.

“Tokaimura” is a small Japanese fuel preparation facility. Workers were not properly trained to make a batch of experimental fuel and brought too much enriched uranium together which caused an uncontrolled chain reaction. Over a hundred workers received large doses of radiation and 2 workers died from radiation exposure. “Peabody” is a reference to Robert Peabody who died after an accident at a nuclear power plant fuel facility in Rhode Island in 1964. He is the only person ever killed in an American nuclear accident and the circumstances were similar to the Tokaimura accident. His liquid uranium reached a critical mass and emitted lethal doses of radiation.

“Project Salt Vault” was an experiment to see if spent nuclear fuel rods could be successfully contained deep in a Kansas salt mine. Salt does naturally absorb radiation and the experiment was successful, though the site was abandoned due to concerns that the fuel rods could potentially interact with underground water and oil reservoirs.

“3.28.79 Part II” and “3.28.79 Part III” borrow audio interviews from a repository of almost 300 audio tapes of interviews conducted by Dr. Lonna Malmsheimer and her Dickinson College colleagues soon after the nearby Three Mile nuclear accident. These audio tapes and supporting materials have been made available on the internet to understand the facts of the incident and the varying degrees of public reaction. Matthew Stone grew up in nearby Lebanon, PA and his father recalled being sent home from his work in Harrisburg, PA during the TMI incident. This helped inspire Stone’s interest in nuclear power plant accidents which heavily influence Soporus’ material.

24,110 is dedicated to the spirit of the Lelechenky and to Wladimir Schewtschenko who filmed footage of the Chernobyl accident and died from radiation poisoning (his only protection was a surgical mask and his camera was buried with the rest of Chernobyl’s radioactive debris). The mysterious majesty of 24,110 is a requiem of the aftermath of life and nuclear power

“[Burnt Toast Vinyl’s] double-LP set of four new bands–including brilliant ambient duo Soporus–is one of the most memorable releases this year.” — Martin de Leon, XLR8R

“The artists’ ambient and post-rock material is superb…A similar desolation and grandeur haunts the magisterial “3.29.79” and [Soporus’] other pieces are equally beautiful ambient settings.” — Textura