Francisco López’s “DSB” reviewed by Freq

There’s a quality that some music has of being like an old friend. I’ve not listened to any new Francisco López in a decade or more but the ’00s CDs of his I have get a fairly frequent spin. Those CDs tended towards a kind of quietism — usually called Untitled [n] and largely a kind of textural building from exceptionally quiet to pretty blaring. All with exquisite attention to sonic detail — you could nominally call it “noise”, but you’d be a fool to do so.

So what’s he up to in 2021? Well this apparently spans 2009-2019, so difficult to say precisely, but this seems to be collected and processed field recordings. And in proper sound-art fashion, there’s not quite enough material here to give a clear idea of the sorts of environments being recorded — is that a watery sound or just some squelchy noise?Train station or generated rhythm? Submerged mics or studio trickery?

It’s always difficult to know with López whether there’s a narrative or if he’d prefer that the listener make their own mind up about what’s being heard. Here he’s perhaps avoiding the intense building of the work I’m familiar with, preferring something more like a contraction and expansion of different elements — incidental office environment sounds maybe, digital burrs.

López is tricky to recommend in a specific way, I think. This is effectively some field recordings. Those are interesting or not, depending on the listener — I could imagine this being super compelling to someone unfamiliar with that world, and is doubtless compelling to someone already familiar with that world. He’s certainly one of the greats of this quite specific sound-art — plenty of forensic mic-detail but never too clean or asceptic with it, he’s capable of exquisite beauty but doesn’t have the sort of fidelity fetish that can render this sort of material dry and academic. Which is to say, he’s by a large margin one of the best at this kind of thing.

There’s a smidge of composerly drama — and it’s worth having a go in a darkened room with decent headphones — but not so much as to be romantic or, dare I say it, musical in too specific a fashion. The second piece is perhaps the quieter of the two (though neither is much louder than ambient for any length of time) and it keeps making me wonder if he’s doting on the tone of the ambient noise within a given environment — almost like he’s bringing forwards the ambient background hum.

It’s a lush album. It’ll have the problems that these things often do — it definitely demands a decent listening environment and half-decent gear. It’s definitely the sort of thing hi-fi bores should use to show off their stereo equipment. And he’s probably the best in the album-based sound-art game, for my money. Kev Nickells

via Freq