Picos de Urbión is a crisp, uninterrupted trip down a Spanish river, beginning in the mountains and ending in the streams. This field recording composite tells a story of glacial melt, ecosystems and community engagement, all in only 37 minutes.
While the water begins as the main attraction, the local wildlife soon captures the attention: multiple species of birds, crickets, frogs, and unidentified guests who seem to be greatly enjoying the arrival of spring. Whether previously trapped beneath layers of ice, as yet unborn, or residing in a more equatorial clime, these creatures are now free to eat, drink and mate to their hearts’ content. Their excitement is contagious. Oliveira has done a wonderful job including a variety of wildlife, although the screeching bird who enters in the seventh minute grows increasingly annoying. As it flies off (12:45), the entire community seems relieved. The irony is that this cry may in fact seem quite attractive to a potential mate of the same species.
Weaving through the background of the piece, patiently waiting for its opportunity to break through, is the river, which begins to turn into a torrent as the snow melts. The rain will help as well, raising the river banks to overflowing. A local village responds with chimes and bells. While the Duero River may be the source of life and livelihood, it remains untamed. A little prayer and contemplation can’t hurt. But in the 24th minute, the timbre changes, as someone begins smashing things and whistling. One wonders if this segment is meant to indicate frustration, or the corrosive effect of human intrusion on natural environments. The church bells return at 26:56, tolling once like a reminder of reserve. And off goes Oliveira, tromping through the snow to the stream, which is now swift and dangerous. The final minutes are peaceful once more, an indication that even the fury of nature has no intention, simply design. (Richard Allen)