Hidden Sounds of Coastal Arcades is more than just a sound piece. It transports you to the seaside holidays of your childhood. Created by sound artist Frazer Merrick, he audially depicts Walton Pier in Essex, where he originates from. The voices and screams of children at the pier skip through the piece, perhaps harking back to his own youth. However, the way it makes you nostalgic for your own, is why it is a powerful piece. Not only are you transported to the past, but also it is as if you are there now, creating a sense of timelessness.
In three movements Merrick takes you through the pier architecturally. You start in the arcade, the sound of coins tumbling out of the machines inspiring a ‘down the rabbit hole’ moment. You are suddenly there, in a darkened room of flashing neon lights. This is aided by the use of binaural sound, which aims to create an immersive hearing experience. The impact of this is that the clanging coins, coupled with the electromagnetic field of the machine makes you feel unsettled. It becomes too much, feeling glad when the sounds carry you out of the arcade, and outside.
The cacophony of coins feels similar to the panic of losing your family in an unfamiliar place, so the change in pace is calming. You are comforted by the recorded voices of an older man and woman. Hearing their voices, although they are strangers, is like finding your grandparents again, running into their arms and realising you are safe.
The final movement is at the end of the pier. A woman muses about ‘the Victorians walking around’, and you imagine a time you were not alive in, yet the English seaside connects you to. It feels as real as today, part of a pilgrimage to the coast British people have undertaken for centuries.
Merrick transports you to Walton Pier, and takes you on a physical journey through its wonders. More significantly, however, you are taken back into your memories. I have never been to Essex, let alone the pier the artist conjures, but that isn’t the point for me. Merrick makes you feel like you could be at any coastal town in the UK, at any time. It is this universality that makes it such a powerful transporting piece. You are hit with a wave of nostalgia, even if you are not from Essex.