“The others!” These words will forever be remembered by fans of the TV series Lost as a harbinger of doom, while ghost story aficionados will recall their use in the Nicole Kidman thriller of the same name. And so to name one’s album Los Otros (The Others) is to invite a pleasant sense of anticipatory dread. Costa Rica’s Jose Acuña, last heard on Sustained Layers, BLWBCK’s three-way collaboration with Postdrome & Saåad, ups the ante here by offering a suite of songs that flow together like a cross between a dark symphony and a suspense score. (Check the Psycho string sounds and ghostly loop at the end of “Fuera” for evidence.) By establishing and sustaining a mood, Acuña proves that he is capable of restraint, never toppling over into self-indulgence or obvious motif. Even the music exudes an otherworldly quality: calm, contained, yet unsettling.
It’s important to play Los Otros as a whole, rather than as individual tracks – not only because the tracks lack silences in the spaces between, but because the album follows a narrative arc. The brief “Luz (Light)” seems to be the tipping point, leading into the round, stuttered major chords of “Estos Son Mis Ojos (These Are My Eyes)”, but the brightness recedes in the later movements, leading to the question, “Does such light enhance our lives, even when lost?” – a question similar to “Is it better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?” Given the beatific, measured cadence of the overall suite, one might hazard that the answer is yes.
What are the others? Are they sinister or benign? In many suspense films, the alleged threat turns out to be a blessing. (A primary example is “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. The ten-minute “Diluria” comes across as a battle of emotions, as memories grow shinier, anxieties grow sharper, and the future grows muddier. But the piece’s harsh drones – sullen, distorted, unrelenting – are balanced by the kindness of a piano melody, shining like a nearly-discarded offer of intervention. And in the final minutes, a pulse, the album’s first, like a heartbeat noticed and appreciated.
By the title track, the mood has shifted. Movement – clatterings and rustlings, imitating those found in the opening track – now seem less ghostly. This shift in perception implies that “the others” may be our own imagined lives, either better or worse than we imagine – the selves not yet discarded, the paths not yet taken. As long as there is breath, there is life, and to imagine the darkness without succumbing to it is EUS‘ incredible gift. (Richard Allen)