Saturday 23rd July

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So a brief review tonight, partly because its midnight and I’ve had a long day, but also party because I’m not sure how much there is for me to say about tonight’s disc. The release is another (the sixth) disc in the Unfathomless series of releases, this time a two track CD named Aguatierra by Juan José Calarco, an Argentinian field recordings based composer. This release then, in keeping with the Unfathomless trend consists of a couple of pieces that have been collaged together from assorted field recordings, some untreated, others apparently filtered somehow, a mass of material all brought together. This approach, as regular readers will know, is far from original, and can, on the wrong evening really rub me up the wrong way, simply because so often music of this kind lacks originality or imagination. Aguatierra, on the whole isn’t that bad an example of this area of music. It is a little generic, but there is enough of interest in the pieces to hold my attention for a few runs through, and in places it gets quite dramatically exciting. There is an interesting little piece on the press page for the release at the Unfathomless site though that actually highlights some of the issues I have with this kind of work. The piece contains the following couple of lines:

“the work of Juan José Calarco is characterized by a similar desire to keep the sonic flow going. Rather than following conventional concepts of composition, his albums constitute open-ended journeys in perpetual search and constant negotiation both of a path and goal, similar perhaps to how a DJ exclusively spinning field recordings would build his sets.”

The metaphor for a DJ’s mix is an interesting one, as it does indeed reflect nicely how this music feels. Elements arrive, hang around a bit, then fade out as something else takes the foreground, and so things go until a tasteful fade signals the end of the piece. The trouble then, is what does this music really exist for? is it just an aural slideshow of digital snapshots, each quite beautiful and interesting, but ultimately nothing more than that? As a DJ plays records, he presents us with sounds and shows how they can be linked together nicely, but is this enough for a composition to achieve?

Aguatierra, does touch on a little more here and there. The second piece, which is made up of quite a few watery sounds amongst others opens with a huge blast of sound as recordings of (I think) a storm, and crashing water are combined with great drama. This moment works well, partly because of the relative calm that follows it, the shadow of the preceding dynamics cast over the quiet. A few more sections like this one work well, and the music also manages to always have something interesting happening, be it a distant aircraft heard apparently drowned in water, or the odd coughing sounds heard throughout the final minutes of the first piece. Ultimately though Aguatierra is somewhat unoriginal. There are water sounds here, wind, traffic, birds, all of the typical boxes get ticked. Its a nicely put together work that includes a lot of material that has been meticulously gathered around South America though so perhaps I shouldn’t be so dismissive, but the image of the DJ just working through their favourite tracks is one that sticks in my head, for all the wrong reasons.

4 Comments

  • juan jose calarco August 18, 2011 - 6:17 am

    México is not part of South America, its funny how someone who writes reviews about this boring and sometimes pretentious arty music knows nothing about general geography…

  • majavision August 18, 2011 - 9:22 pm

    for someone who has just a little to say you definitely wrote too much

  • Richard Pinnell August 18, 2011 - 9:32 pm

    Sigh… I wrote an honest review of my opinion of this CD. Sorry it doesn’t meet your approvals, I’m sure other reviews will.

    For the record, according to the CD’s notes, the music here was made up using recordings made in Argentina and Mexico City. So perhaps I should have said Central and South America rather than just South America, so apologies if my descriptions of geography aren’t up to the standard expected of a music writer.

  • juan jose calarco August 18, 2011 - 10:52 pm

    Hi Richard

    In my case, I’ve enjoyed your review and I never have any problem with both positive or negative feedback (just writing you this makes me feel odd). I just felt kinda puzzled by your geographical confusion and I couldn’t help to point it, by the way, Mexico is part of North America, along USA and Canada.

    Best regards, always
    Juan

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