To look in is to look out: the world is a vision rooted upon our imagination and our experience, or so believed a few early Romantics. The “window” of painting and then photography was not really a look into how “things really are”, into some universal state, but a glimpse of the particular, the echoes of an eye not our own, making the world before us. The album cover is an excellent gateway to the musical implications of these ideas, setting us, in one perfect shot, right in the middle of a vast ocean, the sand surrounded by water, delicately about to disappear, with the only concrete element made unreachable at a distance, just a few titanic shapes fading in the sunset. Between the uncertain, shifting grounds of our eye (the artist’s own) and the object of our attention, however familiar, lies a sensory sea that even made still looks forever in movement. Something parallel could be said about our ear and sound; to listen to music, in a way, is to listen to ourselves, and the very sound of the sea is paradigmatic in its culturally-bound, paradoxical suggestion of pure noise conceived as calm, for it drowns the spasms of inner dialogues.
Michael Vallera’s Window In works entirely within that realm, where the texture of an undefinable drone grants the piece stability, or where opaque bell-like tones contradict their strength by dissipating into textural warmth. Such fluidity facilitates making this journey yours, to stand slightly beyond that precarious patch of sand and give all these sensations a meaning born from your own experience and imagination. All the worlds that become possible, all those potential feelings of quiet, of dread, of profound sadness or of meditative bliss are not the soundscapes beyond the window, but the soundscapes produced by the window itself. All its beauty and all its uncertain edges are you, the art and music simply detonators, the motif of a recurring dream.
Vallera has dedicated a considerable part of his work to the expansion and deconstruction of the electric guitar, seeking and finding paths that lead beyond the instrument’s regularly trodden types of sound, cemented -but not exhausted- by all kinds of popular music. He is far from alone in this enterprise (even within popular genres), and his approach tends towards ambient and drone in the vein of more than a few Fennesz albums. But where the latter pushes the “objective” limits of the music by electronic means, Vallera is here more concerned with the “subjective” side, where the new signifies not solely a technical breakthrough, but the moment where the listener and a sound estranged from its origin collide. The result is unique, sourced upon that idea that to look out is to look within, a listening experience connected with the threads of your life as they manifest into the sea currents of distinct electric guitar hues.
The source of this soundscape is not exactly the instrument, and it is not exactly (or at least, no longer) the artist at work: his musical ears, like his photographic eye, is the site where ours stand. It returns to music its deep collective roots, the sense of standing amidst the presence of a myriad selves turned others, the flows of the Window In an immersive experience where getting lost truly becomes the way towards consciousness. For me, this meant finding in “Blue Mind” an intense focus, as if I was gearing for a fight, its drones a series of waves for me to channel into sharpening my attention; it meant being driven to the edge of pleasant tears in the bright, calming mantra-like dissolving repetition of “Deep Sleeping Exit”; it meant a sense of intrigue and mystery at what I perceived to be the heart of the title track’s echoing vastness; it meant a mild distress at the subtly alarming undertones of “Hours”, rooted upon my inability to simply hold them in place, to raise the volume and fully discern the paths of the track’s soft noises. But tomorrow, perhaps, this will be different, and that’s where the source is to be found, in the ephemeral parallel between the guitar and ourselves, our possibilities expanding, continually being unmade, always in response to something concrete that forever lies across an ocean of experiences. Listen: enjoy yourself. (David Murrieta Flores)