Francisco López ~ Hidden Island Music (untitled #398)

When can one tell that a field recordist is really into their craft?  When the artist visits for a performance and while waiting, wanders off into the surrounding area to record sounds for a new composition.  The island of Tenerife provides  Francisco López with ample raw material, which he takes home to sculpt and shape.

Following an initial period of quietude, López locates a rhythm in the lapping of waves and the movement of hulls.  The tempo finds new accompaniment in the form of measured drones: the rhythm of the island echoed by the rhythm of the impression.  López calls the soundscape Hidden Island Music, a title that yields a dual interpretation: that the island itself is hidden, and that its precious sonic material is buried like a treasure waiting to be unearthed.  As the volume grows, one thinks less of the boat in the dock and more of a voyage to sea that grows more dangerous as the clouds darken and the surf increases.

But then the composition takes a left turn, as if suddenly docked in a foreboding forest.  Ghostly primates howl while light precipitation falls.  Flowing water beckons in the distance.  Electronic adornments provide an unusual sense of safety as the only hint of humanity in an unfamiliar sonic setting.  Just as one is beginning to get one’s bearings, another tumble, to subterranean rumble and night insects, followed by the forlorn wind of a savage storm.  The disorientation is now complete.  One thinks of these hidden places on the hidden island and wonders, would I survive there?  

While there’s no indication López is in any danger, the implication is that sometimes trepidation leads to awe.  In order to capture these sounds, he had to go off the beaten trail, to hunt for sonic doubloons.  The wildness is a reminder that nature is impassive and can strike without guile.  The impression is borne by the cover art: dark and beguiling, a simultaneous invitation and warning. The sounds grow subtle for a spell between winds, then return with a vengeance, pinging against metal, until a sudden snipping of the sonic tape.  Now two minutes of near-silence, the calm after the storm, an invitation to lean in again, to hear what was hidden by the wind, as Elijah on the mountain: the still, small voice, the soft whisper that was there all along.  (Richard Allen)

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