Valentina Villarroel is one of the most unassuming artists we’ve even encountered. Content to let her work speak for itself, she provides only sparse descriptions. In a single sentence, she writes that Mares was recorded at “different locations around the region of Bio Bio, Chile.” The rest is up to us.
This is her second release of the season on Sonospace, arriving on the heels of the recently reissued Pequeñas Composiciones, an experimental set comprised of field recordings, found sounds and studio manipulations. Mares is more straightforward, a collection of crisply mastered recordings captured where land meets sea. It’s the best recording of its kind since Chris Silver T’s Salty Spots, and pairs nicely with Simon Šerc‘s Bora Scura: one set wind, the other one waves.
For those who can’t get to the beach, Mares makes an evocative sonic companion. The nine numbered tracks rise in intensity, each more active than the one before. Save for the slight spaces between them, one might mistake them for a single, developing soundscape. From the opening minute, the attention to stereo is evident; the waves travel from speaker to speaker as they would in real life. The recording also yields an illusion of depth, as some water sounds surge forward while others retreat. Above (in “Mar 1”) and to the side (“Mar 2”), gulls offer squawking commentary; children are heard in “Mar 3” and “Mar 4”. One may choose to adjust the stereo to match the volume of the subject matter, or to listen through headphones and allow the urban landscape to drift away.
By “Mar 7”, all extraneous sounds are drowned out. There’s one more shout that may be that of a child (waving, not drowning), and then the ocean becomes a sea of white noise. “Mar 8” proceeds in similar fashion, with bird cries disintegrating into the crash and foam. It seems that Vallarroel has ventured past the wrack line into the crunch zone, an area which offers simultaneous danger and excitement. The adrenaline rises while listening to these recordings; we’re ready for our own adventures as well. (Richard Allen)