By Danger Coolidge
Unbelievably Bad Editor
We haven’t been this stoked on a frog-related release since “Crazy Frog”. Field recordist Jeremy Hegge has issued a cassette of incredible frog-noise-music titled amphibian noise songs from the mountains of kroombit tops. Around the UB office we refer to it more simply as “The Frog Tape”.
It’s a wet season bush symphony recorded in Kroombit Tops National Park, Queensland in February. Hegge’s name is on the package, but really, he was just the producer/engineer – the frogs did all the a-cappella stuff.
Released by Sydney “boutique” label Chemical Imbalance on micro cassette limited to just 15 copies, it’s all sold out but you can relive this night of horny toads on Bandcamp for as long as the internet exists. [UPDATE: Chemical Imbalance did a second run yesterday and as of right this second there are four remaining.]
UB questions Jeremy about this most unique Australian example of found sound, field recording, noise music and frog songs…
What is your stance on drug taking, Jeremy?
Interesting first question haha. Not sure how serious I should answer this, it’s a pretty broad question, but I think drug use depends with every person, different circumstances, etc. I smoke marijuana regularly and I think it’s great, it’s helped me become a much more relaxed and positive person, great for heightened listening experiences and sensory experiences in general, can be very inspiring, it’s a nice escape from the boredom of suburban life, too.
What cocktail had you taken when you first got the idea for the frog recordings. Talk us through your thought process…
Well, I can’t remember the first time I recorded frogs, that was a while ago! But I guess recording frogs is quite an obvious thing to do when you start to get interested in listening to and recording the sounds around you, as they can be such an overt and occasionally intense sonic occurrence in places. The songs that frogs sing are so unbelievably varied in their thousands of different emanations, from deep rumbling drones, odd bleeps, ear piercing rings, bell-like tones, just endless sounds that you could never imagine until you heard them. They are one of my favourite things to listen to, love frogs!
One time I thought crickets in my backyard were playing a Skrillex tune, but in order for me to get to hear it I had to be very still and quiet for a long time so the crickets got used to me. Was your experience the same – how did you capture your frogs, so to speak?
I’ve had that experience before (excluding Skrillex though haha), sometimes frogs (and many other animals) can be very shy and stop singing when you come too close and then you may have to wait for ages to hear them again. Fortunately the frogs on this night were so intensely horny and caught up in the competition (and joy?) of singing/mating that they didn’t pay me any attention. I was right in the thick of it. There were hundreds of frogs on the ground, frogs on the surrounding trees, frogs on the reeds within the pond and a lot swimming around and mating. Lots of egg froth! I had to set up and leave the microphones there and walk away as I would’ve gotten serious hearing damage if I’d stayed by the pond – they were really deafening. The microphones were also placed lower to the ground, as the higher up they were, the sharper the sound of one of the harshest frog species was (Uperoleia fusca), one of the reasons listening to the acoustics of a place can be important when recording.
Would it resonate with the average frog as a standout recording – or would it just seem like a typical night’s gig to them?
I think it would probably make some of them horny! While we’ll never be able to read the minds of other animals (or will we?!), I reckon they probably do enjoy the songs, maybe a lot more than some of us humans do! This would be a standout chorus for the frogs up there, rare throughout the year but quite typical of this weather of the wet season. When it just becomes so intensely hot and humid and wet (hundreds and hundreds of millimetres of rain over a few days) the frogs would sing like this night after night. And in the lowlands below the frog choruses were just on a whole another level, even richer. On our drive up through the lowlands we heard about 15 species of frogs and saw nine species of snake in just a few hours so when the time is the right, subtropical Queensland can become a pretty unreal and rich place for wildlife. I went up there as a volunteer on a little expedition to look for an endemic frog to the mountain, the beautiful little (critically endangered) Kroombit Tinker Frog. They do the expedition at least once a year but from what I gather the weather is rarely so extreme. The rain had been so heavy that on our way back through the lowlands, nearly every creek was difficult to pass because of recent floods and some cement passages across the creeks were even ripped apart. When we left, what would normally be a 90-minute drive back to the highway through rural bush, ended up taking about 7-8 hours, so that tells you how much rain there was at the time.
What was done to the recordings in post – is there any layering of sounds or treatment?
The recording actually hasn’t been edited or touched in post at all – a rare case where there was no need/want for it. The frog chorus was just so naturally rich! As a side note, the Cane Toads in this recording wouldn’t be able to give you any feedback on this chorus as on our last night Harry (the leader of the little scientific expedition we were on) killed all the toads in the pond with a crowbar. A bit tragic, but not as tragic as them taking over and ending up being the only voice that emerges from these beautiful places.
Who is your target audience?
Everybody! I think enjoying something as simple as listening to frogs, birds, aquatic insects, wind, drones in a fence, electromagnetic waves, etc. is open to anyone, from any background, be it the most intensely mainstream pop to those into the most intensely freeform music and everything in between. These are the sounds of the earth we live in and I think is possible for anyone to become inspired or interested by them as they are just as diverse (or more!) as the people that inhabit this planet. But I think these frog songs would be particularly enjoyed by those who like deafening “noise”.
amphibian noise songs from the mountains of kroombit tops: