It’s rare that we encounter an album devoid of liner notes. We assume the moniker of the Portuguese artist is a pseudonym, as Google lists Txema González as a cycling masseur who died in Seville a decade ago. We feel on firmer footing with the title; insularum means island, while the cover and second track title refer to a map. Let’s imagine then that we are in a new territory, left on our own to decipher its secrets.
In “Soula,” a cacophony of living sounds envelops the listener: barking dogs, chirping birds, braying livestock, distant humans. A brook is babbling. The soundscape is steady and smooth. But the reverie is broken early on “Mapa Sonoro” with a chorus of foghorns, as if one has drifted into the most horrible water jam. So much for the vacation brochure. It takes a while to realize these horns are not blowing at each other, but harmonizing like loud, horny birds. The next segment of the 35-minute track highlights cow bells, but again these aren’t cows, but people playing cowbells while others mill about. Children play happily in the water until the cowbells return.
Is this Portugal? The peninsulas seem to jut too far to match the coastline. We do know that the area is teeming with wildlife and that the humans seem predisposed to make melody soft and loud. Perhaps Insularum is an island of the imagination, a lost destination, or an idealized landscape. One expects a cyclops or siren to appear, but apart from a few bees, the area sounds safe. In the marketplace, some laugh while others play lute and drums: a street festival? A celebration of local culture? If not for the foghorns, we could be convinced that the city is ancient.
Halfway through, the obvious is confirmed: this is a city by the sea. Lapping waves conquer all other communication. After a few minutes, someone starts running (his?) hand through the water, savoring texture and timbre. We regress to early morning with the sounds of a crying baby, church bells and a rooster. Might this island be found in Einstein’s Dreams? Traffic passes in the end, confounding expectations once again. The project is a mystery, received as a fever dream. (Richard Allen)