Sites & Sounds:
Excavating the Wobbly Tempos of The Raincoats

Archaeology chases absence. Oddly, this often results in the investigation of material presence -- the lingering industries of archaic populations. This application of methodology is far too narrow. Traditionally, material traces are conceived of solely in regard to visual-tactile artifacts. Recent scholarship has tried to disrupt this restricted conception of materiality to incorporate sensory phenomena such as light, scents, and sounds. Sonic archaeology is gaining significant traction among archaeologists but has thus far been applied predominantly to interpretations or reconstructions of what archaic environments may have sounded like. Inverting this application of sonic archaeology, this study takes an explicitly sonic site -- the self-titled debut album of the late 70's postpunk band The Raincoats -- and investigates it using archaeological methods. Instead of using visual remains (either artifactual or architectural) to speculate on sonic environments in hopes of better appreciating the lived experiences of non-present populations, this effort excavates a piece of modern media to explore how sounds can construct anti-normative environments.

Songs have an intrinsic debt to temporality, as they cannot exist in stasis. Excavated material is all-too-often rendered static through the artifactualization process -- the process that attempts to delimit the capacities of an object in order to place it within a bounded interpretation. Sound defies this artifactual suppression of capacities, resisting the two-dimensionality of narrative. This study posits that the peculiar off-kilter tempos manifested within the sonic spacelife of The Raincoats, exemplifies this resistance. Sound's materiality is perpetually plasticating -- never stopping, always mutating. Sound's materiality cannot be abstracted from its environment to be further analyzed 'back in the lab'. This study excavates the semiotic stratigraphy of sound that cannot be captured in photo or encased in glass. Meaning is a negotiation that cannot be conducted when the arbiters are paralyzed.

To tangibly illustrate this epistemological approach, the concept of the Moire Effect has been adopted as a proxy for the accumulation of semiotic stratigraphy. Digging through the sonic layers and their semantic correlates is represented by the distortion that occurs in the continuous layering of redundancies upon each other. Here, sound, time, and visual distortion are laid out before the observer for post-narrative interpretation.