Francisco López & Miguel A. García’s “Ekkert Nafn” reviewed by Fluid Sonic Fluctuations

Welcome to another new review in the Fluid Label Focus series on the Crónica label in which today I’m reviewing an album that I received as a review copy on CD from Crónica quite by surprise. With many review copies nowadays coming in in digital format through the email or other ways, finding an extra review copy in my physical package of a release I didn’t review yet was a very nice gift. Indeed this album, titled Ekkert Nafn by Francisco López & Miguel A. García was also the exact kind of album I had actually been subconsciously waiting to check out for quite some time, with the last time I’ve checked out López work being through a CD release in a very arty package that I ordered from the quality but unfortunately by now closed Experimedia mail order store so seeing his name on this album already gave me high expectations as through my always ongoing interest in underground and experimental music the glimpses of descriptions of his sound always left me intrigued. Indeed through the ever-growing interconnection by networking with an ever growing number of artists and labels that I review I’ve already come across Miguel A. García’s name as well, but didn’t know yet what kind of sound his material has. Through Ekkert Nafn I found out however that these two Spanish sound artists and experimental musicians have a lot in common in terms of their approach to composing, manipulating and performing with sound but through subtle cues there is a kind of division between the two artists audible on this album, although when listening to this album in full, the transition from López’ piece to the track by Miguel A. García is so seamless that the compositions become one piece, one continuous experience. And while before writing my reviews I always read the release descriptions and refer to them somewhat too, the more compact text on the back cover which doesn’t reveal a lot is in this case also enough to be able to get into these pieces, as like López also said in an interview before, not knowing what these sounds are sourced from is often better than having this knowledge to get into the compositions with a completely fresh mind and no pre-formed expectations in your mind in advance. So that’s also the approach I will take with this review, as much interpretation of the compositions without too much reference to possible recognisable sounds. Before I get into the compositions, I’ll talk a bit about the artwork of this release on CD, as always. The CD of Ekkert Nafn comes in a nice compact cardboard gatefold sleeve with artwork by Raul Dominguez and the signature Crónica design by Miguel Carvalhais. The front cover is quite fitting to my impression of the sound works on this album themselves, abstract paint-like swipes of white and purple-ish colour combined with blue dots puncturing these textures appear over a dark nocturnal background which matches the rather mysterious nocturnal ambience I’m getting from the pieces, strange glimmering sounds appearing in front of you in the dark quiet night. In the middle you can see the artist names, album title, Crónica logo and catalogue numbers in uppercase type in a nice contemporary labelling style. The spine follows the familiar Crónica style again, artist names in normal uppercase type, album title in bold and label name, catalogue numbers + year in regular style again over a black background. The back cover is black as well, listing the track list plus track timings, creation dates and locations, copyright data, links and album credits in serif type. Inside the gatefold you can find more artwork (which is especially focussed around the aforementioned holes in which lights and shapes peeking through). The CD itself is housed in a round die cut in which it can slip in and out. The CD features signature Crónica design, black background, with a pretty bold border around it and shows the Crónica logo in transparent style, catalogue numbers, artist names and album title and the CD logo.

Now onto the pieces themselves, as I mentioned, listening to both pieces by Francisco López and Miguel A. García in sequence on this album does give a listening experience that feels more like one continuous piece rather than two solo works (Untitled #351 by Francisco López being track 1 and Applainesads by Miguel A. García being track 2) and this isn’t entirely surprising as the back cover states that both artists based their pieces on the same batch of source sounds that they also collaborated on within the creation process of that sound set itself. There is definitely a cross of sonic material on this album but while reading this description might make you wonder if that doesn’t render the compositions very similar to eachother, that’s not really the case. Instead the pieces compliment eachother. For a start, let’s look at López’ piece Untitled #351. Lopéz takes on a very dynamic, varied and intriguingly alien approach to his sound world and composition, giving us sounds we think we recognise but bringing these into very mysterious situations. Glimmering mechanical sounds backed with low sub bass pulsations often give the impression of some kind of strange abstract moving structure of particles glowing and twisting in front of you, in the dark night. This “night” suggestion is one I got from both pieces because the sound is very focused in a certain direction in the stereo field, often leaning to centre or a bit more to the right of the stereo field, this mixed with the curious separation in frequencies of the sonic spectrum in which the low end is very low, while other sonic energy floats in the mid-high – high end of the spectrum but has some quite prominent resonant frequencies sticking out quite a lot. Very quiet sections, quite lowercase are also prominent in López’ piece, with a quiet listening environment or headphones being a true requirement for this piece to be able to actually hear everything within it as the piece can vary from louder sections of at times, industrial styled sections of composed sound rhythms and metallic pulsations to very soft, sub-bassi sections of soft tones and tonal elements. This constant variation in manipulation, blend of sonic textures and at times surprisingly musical ways of handling sound through repeating rhythms or tones creates a listening experience that feels like a very nice fresh approach to soundscapes and the Sound Art field in general as while the sonic images are audibly rooted in concrete real-world sounds, the glimmering, glitchy, at times punchy rhythmic pulsations, bass throbs, metallic “percussion” textures and high frequency details together form an ever changing sonic landscape that moves from intense bright activity to sections of very subdued “hidden sounds” at the edge of the threshold of hearing, which creates a great depth, progression and “story line” to the piece which makes it a very memorable, inspiring immersive listen which I highly recommend. Because of the adventurous structure of the piece I also don’t want to spoil how this piece progresses but I can tell it’ll definitely give you whole fresh new perspective on how powerful and also fun sound art and composed soundscapes can be. Applainessads, Miguel A. García’s piece follows up López piece in a great way through a more drone based continuous kind of flowing soundscape which is more high end based in terms of sound spectrum and which features plenty of eerie strange sounds, some of which are recognisable as nature sounds, like crickets and wind. It forms a great extended coda to Untitled #351 with its mixture of nature sounds blended with metallic textures and resonating droning tones. But also this piece does feature its own kind of rhythmic elements in the form of hollow “drop” like sounds that appear quite distant, like water drops reverberating in a damp wet cave. I’d say this piece feels quite a lot like an examination of strange dust particles in the night air turned into a subtly evolving soundscape, like a brooding mostly continuing ambience of metallic resonant ghostly textures that feels both oddly alien and strange but also comforting organic and natural at the same time. Its differing compositional and textural style definitely does make it obvious as being a distinct different piece from López’ composition but the coherent metallic resonance that is also audible in López piece connects both together for a seamless experience and thereby forms an awesomely unique layered sonic journey that feels quiet at times and yet also so close in front of you.

Ekkert Nafn by Francisco López & Miguel A. García is definitely a very strongly recommended album and one of the best Crónica releases from this year as well. A thrilling, immersive and highly detailed sonic journey of concrete sound bordering on recognisable musical elements that unpredictably flows from one event to another and conjures up awesome nocturnal images of subdued or more “open” mystery through the mixtures of nature sounds, metallic mechanical sounds, resonances, sub bass rhythms and lush high frequency details. A highly recommended release for anyone into the composed side of soundscapes, sound art and fans of Drone, Industrial as well as perhaps Noise will also find familiar elements in these pieces to enjoy and with such expertly crafted textural compositions this is an album to re-listen many times. Definitely go check out this album. Orlando Laman

via Fluid Sonic Fluctuations