Crónica de un secuestro was conceived and recorded during March of the current year, its grating drones and harsh ambience the result of lockdown isolation. The album title could be translated to “chronicle of a kidnapping”, but it is also interesting to consider that secuestro comes from a legal Roman term still in use today (also in English) that refers to lawful removal or separation from others. This enforced cloistering that has affected the entire world to various degrees has not only revealed the extent of capitalism’s utter incapacity to mobilize towards the care of humanity, but also the pressures that a severed connection to social tissues can provoke upon every one of us. Some are riddled with anxiety; others’ dreams are changing patterns; quite a few of us have developed strange coping mechanisms, from the atrophied dialogues of social media addiction to simply risking lives and going out because it is too dark inside.
Susana López’ album follows the trail of that darkness, the fine line between sequestering and kidnapping, resulting in a work that sounds like the reverse of psychedelic mind expansion, the vastness of its soundscapes a mirage that always ends where it first began. The gradual proliferation of drones and the slowly driving rhythm of “Luz negra”, the first track, hint at an openness that is never fully achieved, its tones eventually reducing in expansiveness, in the end closing down that possibility of feeling free through infinite sound. The mind is here not a vehicle for transcendence, but its main impediment, and the title track reinforces the experience of enclosure by means of overlapping drones that seem to collapse upon one another, developing and dying out too quickly to seem to have any direction whatsoever. It creates an anxious, oppressive ambience that offers no way out, just an almost invariant wall of sound that grows thicker and thicker, whose slight changes signal no future, but a death-shrine to the present state of things.
The opportunity of inwards exploratory listening is not a portal to renovation, since its conditions imply both being sequestered regardless of wants and desires and the knowledge that others are already being deprived of their very lives by the linked action of the pandemic and the terrible sacrificial logic of economics. Meditation is here a path towards an endless forest within, but not one of those grand, vitalist and Romantic images of wilderness: “Huldra”, the third track, may refer to a creature from Norse mythology, who’d live in swampy areas and would kidnap men for sex, hidden in plain view until the right conditions were met. The drones here have a noisy, uncertain edge, underlined by a rhythmic pulse that eventually gives way to creaking, grating field recordings, a monster prowling carefully from somewhere within the mossy obscurity of the unconscious. Its voice appears at the end of the track, a simple synth melody that lasts no more than a few seconds, a playful lure announcing the loss of your mind in the damp fog its very own eternal woods.
The second half of the album begins with “Ibn Arabi”, which refers to a 13th century Islamic philosopher from Andalusian Spain whose works mostly dealt with the unity of God and its creatures. As the center of this musical retelling of claustrophobic feelings, this track is absolute clarity in comparison to the rest of the album, tranquil and relatively unchanging. Its drones are raga-like, constantly sustained and developing rhythmic pulses that offer certainty and stability. Out of all other tracks, it also uses field recordings the most, returning us to a more reassuring semblance of the human. The outreach into the religious background of meditation and the search for inner peace proves to be a relief in an album so saturated with anxiety, but, like so many other temporary measures and coping mechanisms, it also simply ends. Nevertheless, while the last two tracks return to the droning maze of inner turmoil, the promise of quietness of the album’s center permeates throughout, with wider, complete musical passages, no longer cut-up and strained to the point of aimlessness. The finishing section acquires direction, with “The Last Wave”, the closing track, combining elements from “Ibn Arabi” and the rest of the music, its constant drone a backdrop for a storm of electronics that builds up against it for minutes on end. Its stability proves victorious, but by the time silence comes, there is a sense that not everything is back to “normal”, that it is impossible to simply go back: we are all survivors of a catastrophic event, and those of us who make it out alive will carry the consequences with us for the rest of our existences. The “kidnapping” will be no more, but coming out into the world once again means having to reckon with a soundscape irrevocably changed. (David Murrieta Flores)