Five tales, 25 tracks, 44 minutes. The new project from Jose Acuña (EUS) is drastically different from his former work. The physical copy comes in a sturdy, rust-colored cloth pouch, along with a small paper ticket. Momentarily forgiving the cliché, this is a ticket to the imagination. Yes, the album is another “soundtrack to the films of your mind”, but fortunately the music is better than the overused description.
The variety of sounds is vast, and the tracks flow swiftly from one to the next without any intervening silence. If the sequencing seems haphazard, it’s because the artist invites the listener to play the tracks in random order. This is what most listeners do anyway, as the digital era is one of tracks more than albums; but this album comes across less as a collection of individual tracks than as a selection of sonic ideas. This compositional choice leads to some beautiful sequences that one hopes to see further developed, as well as some sketches that pass briefly like mayflies.
The five tales, each sub-divided into smaller tales, all seem part of a larger story, but the specifics of the story are up to the listener. “Tale One” begins with one of the album’s key sounds, a vinyl hitch that sounds like a windshield wiper. In “Part II”, a harsh wind is added; in “Part III”, percussion, an acoustic guitar and a theremin-like instrument; in “Part VI”, randomly synthesized bells. Does it add up to anything, or is it scene after scene? The shift to “Tale One” is so abrupt that it’s hard to tell. If the mind is left free to wander, it may begin to drift into memory, hope or fantasy (the artist’s stated intention), but from a music reviewer’s standpoint, the mind asks, “Which of these sounds do I like the best?” While that’s not the artist’s intention, it’s certainly within the rules.
I particularly enjoy the growing sense of unease on “Tale One, Part II”, as well as the crisp way the percussion emits from different speakers on “Tale Three, Part V”. The dark rustlings of “Tale Four, Part IV” are particularly effective; much less so the wailing on “Tale Two, Part IV”. So now I have to find a way to get from one to another without losing the plot. If Five Tales has made me think about my own preferences, perhaps I’ve done what the artist has intended after all? (Richard Allen)