Three By / With Francisco López

Z’ev/Francisco López

Francisco López/Ilios

Francisco López

Z’ev’s “Buzzin’ Fly” is dedicated to Tim Buckley, but there’s not a single sound in there you could associate with Lorca. It’s the perfect soundtrack to today’s weather: black and grey, wind and rain, headphones full of thunderous slams and cavernous echoes, electronically manipulated into a complex if indeterminable tissue of menace. The third and the fourth movements are the most intriguing, as Z’ev reconfigures his world of suffering through repeated trips to the purgatory of treated percussion. Don’t lower your guard even for a split second, in case you’re mentally challenged – suffocated, rather – by outbursts of malevolent droney bubbles and sparkles. It’s intense, involving stuff not for the fainthearted, like the urgent need to awake from a very bad dream.
“Dormant Spores” also starts with thuds and rumbles, but within two minutes we’re in typical López territory, ears shaken by glacial low-frequency subsonic wind like the slow breath of a giant whale a dozen octaves below. This soon becomes an eye of the storm / natural catastrophe recorded 10,000 feet underground inside a sealed coffin surrounded by a cybernetically generated dam-burst. It’s a gorgeous moment that tops the whole disc as far as vehemently intangible emotions are concerned, until it stops abruptly to plunge us back into a distant percussive reverberant fog, before a tip of the hat to Z’ev himself in the form of “industrial” clang and clatter.

Ilios and López recorded the sounds of a monastery in the Greek mountains, and then created a fantastic album consisting of two separate versions of the same basic material. Ilios starts with the tranquillity of the monastery garden, followed by an overpowering rainstorm, the lonely sound of manual work and the ever-present sea (it could also be the wind, or both). Footsteps. A hiss. A hammering. More footsteps. Chirping birds and, finally, a compelling subsonic embrace lifts the whole piece up until it becomes a debilitating skull massage. I imagine I can hear a mourning chant from the sea, but no, it’s just another aural illusion. Sizzling distortion is added to this intimidating wall of sound – there’s no shelter in sight – and it morphs into jet-propelled sensory deprivation, until all that remains is the numbing drone of a motor. Frequencies beat, slow down, someone coughs, everything stops.
López begins with a short segment of looping ghostly harmonics, then immediately puts his assembling skills to work, catching repetition where it’s not normally found, juxtaposing birds, insects and environmental forces in alluring traps for our brain to fall into, a peculiar beauty revealing itself to be a hideous yet fascinating being feeding on synthetic oscillations and bad instincts. Peace is restored for a few interminable moments, until another terrifying blast of metallic frequencies comes back to hunt out those who managed to escape the first time. It’s the most potent section of the piece, an imposing spatial geometry in constant flux throwing us right back into the strong arms of Nature with a spectacular studio / field recording crossfade. A final murmur; the sea is beckoning me in. If this is “silence”, you have no ears.

Untitled (2005) brings together four more excellent pieces. “Untitled #177” was created with sounds recorded “in Bangkok by building transmissions”. It’s ferociously stomach-gripping, choking our calmness by alternating surrounding peril and more distant, sparsely contoured timbral shades that recall John Duncan. “Untitled #178”, recorded in Amazonia “during the dry season of 2005”, begins surprisingly enough with violent rain and thunder immediately pierced by extreme high frequencies. Cut to a nocturnal environment, crickets and birds making us feel like unwanted guests in a perfect biosystem. López’s electronics provide a haunting background until everything fades to black (or does it?) before a conclusive, splendid entomological choir. “Untitled #111 (for Jani Christou)” is a live recording of the piece’s premiere at Berlin Podewil by Zeitkratzer: it’s an impressive roar of masterfully controlled drones, disciplined percussion, pregnant friction and barely repressed energy that makes the composition sound like Hermann Nitsch on steroids. Great stuff. “Untitled #183” features yet another helping of environmental recording, this time from Quebec. Insects are prominent, with a few “megabuzz” soloists approaching the mics, but the overall sensation is once more of a penetrating spiritual wholeness: pouring rain is a symbolic purification from the illusory significance and useless words that only the stupidity of men, the self-proclaimed “most evolved beings”, could define as “truth”. Then, like all the things they fail to understand (which is more or less everything), they destroy.


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