The field recordings collected here by intrepid Spanish field recordist and composer Francisco Lopez were gathered over the course of 20 years from rainforests in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Gambia, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, Japan, Senegal, South Africa, USA, and Venezuela. It seems if there was a rainforest anywhere, in the last 20 years Lopez attempted to get there and press record.
What’s interesting about this collection is that though they’re edited together as one hour long single piece, the recordings are left untreated, so we can actually hear Lopez’ raw material before he begins his abstractions.
If you’ve ever attended one of Lopez’ performances you would be aware of how he operates, with the audience sitting in the dark, blindfolded, in a large circle facing away from Lopez, towards the speakers situated in the corners of the room. This work however was a specially commissioned performance in New York and featured 82 randomly assigned speakers sprinkled throughout a large auditorium. There is a photo on the back of this disc illustrating the configuration.
Listening in stereo does nothing to temper the power of his piece. It’s typically lush and dynamic, evolving through multiple sonic worlds, where Lopez employs abrupt cuts, subtle fades and the layering of sound to seamlessly move through different spaces, through different environmental conditions, through different rainforests, indeed different countries. In this sense despite not treating the recordings themselves he is altering the context and creating a whole new “hyper world,’ in a way that nature never intended, nor offered. There are links to UK field recorder Chris Watson‘ Weather Report, similarly recording for long periods of time, with Watson sonically condensing his recordings to 18 minutes to provide a representation of 4 months on the Scottish Highlands.
There are numerous moments of sublime beauty here. It’s highly immersive, almost intoxicating in the lush fidelity and articulation of the spaces Lopez visits. Though it’s a recording that continually raises questions, often to cheekily answer them a few minutes later. It begins with heavy rain falling and the jungle being soaked, after a while the frogs come out. Is this an edit? Their calls fade up gradually and seem likely enough, but can we trust our ears? It’s enticing yes but is it an accurate representation – or does that even matter? Suddenly the rain abruptly ceases – too abruptly to be natural and our questions are answered as the frogs continue. It’s this kind of playfulness and questioning that continues to make this piece so compelling over and above the lush sumptuous sounds. And it’s these techniques that continue to make Lopez such a compelling artist.
There are numerous unidentified sounds here, and that’s one thing that’s always been so frustrating about Lopez’ work. He forces us to create our own truth, our own representation. You would imagine that not treating his sounds would clarify matters, yet to some extent it does the opposite, and the listener is left with added pressure attempting to identify whether it’s mother nature or animal or something in between. Sometimes though all you can do is make an educated guess and move on. This too is part of the joy of this piece, in a world where there is so much information about almost everything; mystery can become quite a pleasurable experience.
This is a limited collection of 300, released by the artist himself with a number of similarly untreated editions to follow.