There is a quote on the back of this self released cd from globetrotting Spanish field recordist and composer Francisco Lopez that suggests that the real must be fictionalized to create meaning. This is very much what he has done for his entire career, gathering incredible natural (and at times unnatural) sounds, manipulating and treating them, expanding and reinterpreting them, creating a new kind of hyper reality and in doing so constructing new understandings via these manipulations.
For the first time though, as part of his new Epoche Collection we can gain an insight into his raw materials, as he’ left these sounds totally untreated. He’ still not naming individual tracks, but at least we know he gathered this material from The Peruvian Amazon at the Yanayaca River in 2006.
Perhaps the reason they’ve been left alone is that they’re all fully articulate recordings on their own. Even the most benign piece here features highly reverberant and quite unique bird calls, whilst midway a bottom end snorting growl appears as the numerous birds flutter and squawk, occasionally flapping their wings or ruffling foliage. It’s enough to lull you into a unique sonic and emotional space, and that’s what all these works do incredibly well.
The pieces are quite diverse. Which may be why Lopez has included minutes of silence at the end of each track – to give the ears time to adjust and reduce the fatigue of abruptly moving to a new sound world.
There are no slow fade ups, it’s all abrupt cut ins or out. The second piece in particular is quite confronting and feels like natures equivalent of a noise piece. A kind of indistinguishable noise that initially seems to be reverbed water in a narrow cavern, but then it stops and begins again, making clear its an animal of some description, meanwhile the birds and bugs continue in the background unabated, increasing in volume when this strange sound begins again, competing for space. This is the sound of the jungle coming alive, feeding off itself. It feels dangerous and slightly terrifying. Just what is this creature? This is an example of reality being much more terrifying than anything Lopez could conjure up via manipulation. That’s not to discount his input however. Deft mic placement no doubt contributes to the increasing feeling of unease in the listener and the initial abstraction of the sound.
Nowhere is the power of mic placement more apparent than the third piece, where it sounds like it’s almost placed inside a frog, the call is so close, yet still Lopez is able to articulate a sense of space, with more subtle sounds of call and response frogs further away, and cicadas, other bugs and even birds.
Lopez regularly records for hours at a time in a single location, and you get the sense that these are some of the more dynamic and fully articulated elements he’ had to play with recently. Whilst these recordings are significantly rewarding solely as an opportunity to experience a time and place of some of the most extraordinary sounds of the natural world, the real reward comes from the additional insights they provide into Lopez’ unusual compositional practice.