Surface Hoar is the audio project of Matthew Amundsen, and Streetwalker is a six-track, half-hour collage created entirely from sounds recorded during a ghost tour through the streets of Charleston, S.C. As you might expect, the album has a dark tone. Can’t say for sure whether any of the sounds within actually emanated from the spirit world, but the voices, footsteps, and other less obvious samples have been distorted and tweaked to create an eerie soundscape. It’s not an exercise in morbidity, though, as a good deal of humor shines through, most notably in the manipulation of the tour guide’s spiel as he holds forth on such topics as electromagnetic fields and peeling flesh. Though heavy on the ambient side, many moments take on more recognizably musical motifs, such as the coda of “Pistols at Dawn,” which flirts with morphing into a drum-and-bass pattern, and the minimalist repetition and phasing techniques present in “Old Bonney’s Fire” and “Martha’s Familiar.” Calling to mind Coil or Nurse With Wound in its gloomier moments, there’s also a bit of Negativland’s playfulness throughout Streetwalker as well. Closing track “Whatever Happened to Romance?” seems to come from somewhere else altogether. Gone are the human voices and kinetic editing that came before, replaced by chilly, slow-moving rumbles and drones that overlap to create a tension best appreciated on headphones.
Streetwalker is released through Denver-based label Elseproduct, which has a sampler featuring two Surface Hoar tracks not on the album. Of Spectres and Saints II is a two-disc collection of dark ambient sounds that draw on electronica, musique concrete, noise, and industrial music. As a collection, it’s most impressive as a documentation of a group of sub-underground musicians spread across the globe (one of whom happens to call Knoxville home), working in a marginalized but engaging genre.