The Quietus, November 17th 2015

Lyken and Dove draw light and sound from the Black Isle

With a grant from Creative Scotland's Imagining Natural Scotland initiative, audio visual artist and Cryptic Associate, Mark Lyken, and film maker, Emma Dove armed themselves with the tools of documentary and field recording, and headed into the Black Isle – a peninsula of north eastern Scotland – and allowed the place, the people, the sound and light to inform Mirror Lands, a deeply moving, absorbing and haunting film and sound study.

The Black Isle has its charms, but it is hard country and, as one of the narrators observed, you're either here because you need or want to be, or you get out as soon as you can.

The camera fixes in long static shots, like sullen stares, penetrating telling details; a wind-chewed pier, the rusted flank of a long forgotten boat, stubbled wheat and distant town lights in the cold gloaming.

Lyken's sensitive sound design listens to the sounds arising from the territory and, like a psychogeographic hypodermic punctures the telling element and draws it into his sonic narrative.

What strikes most is the disparity between the hard bitten edge on so much of the visual information, set against the soft affection of the souls who live there. These long lingering shots may show wounded animals bleating in abandoned barns, or waterways cluttered with abandoned ships, drilling rigs and 10 storey cruise ships trying to turn and seek out more picturesque landfall. But the people speak of the ever changing light, the purity of the air, the clarity of thought arising from the uninterrupted views to eternity. It suggests that our sense of place and belonging is at least in part an inwardly informed, archetypal experience as much as it is a consequence of our physical location.

By Michael Begg