Sustainer ~ Anticuario

Anticuario (Antiquated) is a tribute to sounds lost and found, less the work of a crate-digger than a historian. Alex Alarcón (Sustainer) likens the process of creation to visiting an antique shoppe and experiencing the psychic power of bygone eras.  On the one hand, these are old songs brought to life, akin to one fan playing forgotten classics for another.  But since the music is not presented in its original form, the album is more like the restoration of an old house with new colors and trim.  The cover art represents the forms cut from history and rearranged with a sense of feng shui.

There are no track titles per se, but a suite numbered one through six.  The easiest comparison is to The Caretaker, but there’s little haunting here; Anticuaro is more of a celebration as old songs and genres are invited to frolic on the mansion lawn.  In the opening piece, strings set the stage, then race off to reveal chimes.  Loops tumble in a smooth manner, without crackle.  One of the most obvious differences between Sustainer and other nostalgic artists is the number of samples in each piece.  Instead of elongating single loops throughout tracks, Alarcón shares as many as possible.  Occasionally they do sound like ballroom (the beginning of “#02”), but only for a few seconds at a time.  The curiosity is in the soft transitions which border on silence, producing a sense of patience.  There’s a lot to show, but there’s plenty of time.

“Anticuario #03” leaps from the speakers like the opening notes of a movie.  The volume quickly retreats to reveal something more romantic.  Sustainer is enamored with both the sounds and the process of discovery.  In mid-piece, the movement again grows hushed, underlining the detail that these are not songs with repeated choruses, but medleys of music most listeners will never be able to identify.  Like a D.J., Sustainer is conscious of chords, ensuring a seamless flow within tracks.  One does wonder how the album might have played as a single track, although this would have meant sloughing the edges.

The brass segment that begins at 3:06 of “#04” is my favorite part of the set, a reminder that I might have to look up more old brass music.  That’s the beauty of the album: by resurrecting fragments of the past, rather than entire songs, Sustainer leads the ear forward rather than back: an ironic statement given that the album itself is new, and represents a modern genre.  Since this is vinyl, one can imagine beatsmiths adding percussion to these tracks, repurposing them yet again.  Some day, today’s music will seem antiquated as well, its beauty obscured by dust and the allure of the new.  (Richard Allen)

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