The third edition in Francisco López’ new Epoché Collection, Obatalá – Ibofanga is also its most subtle. The 50-minute soundscape seems to be that of a forest at night, but was recorded in multiple locations in two countries over the course of eight years. The single track is instead the sound of the idealized forest, a prototype or symbol, blurring the lines between humanity and nature.
By this point in his career, López has recorded months, if not years worth of field recordings. The Epoché Collection has provided a means of perspective, as the artist looks back, revisits, reevaluates, reorganizes. Imagine cleaning a disorganized house, putting everything in its place: cups in the cupboard, books in the bookcase ~ then micro-organizing, arranging cups by size, books by color, author or subject. This is what the artist has been doing with sound. One imagines vast shelves filled with sonic bottles marked “rain,” “forest”, “mountain”, “stream”, “wildlife.” The forest bottles receive further subdivisions: cricket, frog, wind, mist. On Obatalá – Ibofanga, the recordings are overlapped. One first hears a shift in the tenth minute, and then the ears grow attuned to the separate sources as they arrive. (A birder might be even quicker to notice, as a birder’s ears are already primed to recognize incongruity.) The shifts at the 17-, 21- and 26-minute mark are more like splices, the same at 29:35 and 38:30. In short, this recording could never be misinterpreted as linear, in that soundscapes never change so swiftly and completely. In a previous review, I expressed the thought that the silences between tracks were too long; on this recording, López goes in the opposite direction by eliminating them completely.
The irony of the release is found in an accompanying quote from Ian Bogost: “To be a speculative realist, one must abandon the belief that human access sits at the center of being, organizing it and regulating it like an ontological watchmaker.” And yet, this is exactly what López is doing, in fact must do, in order to be more than a simple recorder of events. In the same manner as a prose reporter must emphasize some parts of a story at the expense of others, shaping a narrative in order to improve comprehension, the sound artist is challenged to do the same. López’ unique angle is a continued fascination with not only what we hear, but how we hear, and why we prefer to receive sound, and to listen, in different ways. (Richard Allen)