Ricardo Donoso has established a sublime symbiotic relationship with Denovali. After the success of Saravá Exu and Machine to Machine, the label rewarded his talent with a compilation of early works and a remix set. Now the artist has returned with an ambitious EP. Quintessence is the glass representation of a HUGE installation from Florence To: a dome containing 157 speakers, comprising a 39.4 channel surround sound system. And while this exposes the paucity of most home systems (four channels at best), there is a way to get around the dilemma: play the music really loud.
An industrial influence is clearly felt, as it was on prior albums. But on Quintessence, the crunchy beats and aggressive drones feed into a larger system. The set is meant to be viewed as a single organism rather than a series of tracks. The center cell is the most active, but even the outskirts are cloudy and seeded with precipitation, like the surprising lightning strikes that can occur at the edges of storms. While it’s easy to pick out the piano, the presence of other organic instruments ~ contrabass, cello and viola ~ is less apparent. Donoso feeds these instruments into a monstrous mulcher, breaking their sounds into piles of elements. Savage swirls culminate in surges and beats, each time raising the level of drama.
The stated themes of memory, the subconscious and individuation are obscured by home listening, but the twin theme of technology v. nature can be gleaned by the battle between the two sonic forces: as the press release states, “each voice fighting for its space in the vacuum of the dome”. The listener decides, whether consciously or unconsciously, which elements to concentrate on. But throw words and concepts to the side, and it’s hard to ignore the power of pulse and percussion; as “Metaphase” proves, an explosion is worth a thousand words. (Richard Allen)