Spanish electronic producer Juan Rico first started releasing tracks as Reeko in the early noughties, before retiring the alias in 2010 and re-emerging as Architectural (indeed, 2013’s ‘The Blue Album, credited to Reeko with Architectural, represented a passing of the torch between the two persona). Since then, Rico’s certainly been prolific, with an impressive backcatalogue of 12” EPs and three albums as Architectural to his name. While some of Architectural’s recent releases have seen him integrating more dancefloor-centred techno rhythms into his productions, this latest self released vinyl-only album ‘Metropolitan Opera’ couldn’t be any more different. Indeed, the seven tracks collected here see Rico completely eschewing propulsive rhythms for a hypnotic, unsettling wash of ambient textures and drones.
It’s curious that in the accompanying press release Rico describes this album as being influenced by the urban sounds of large cities, as the frequently isolationist atmospheres being explored here more often call to mind a lonely drift through the cold depths of space. ‘1a#Opera (Intro0’ evokes vivid images of the Nostromo crawling through the interstellar void at the start of ‘Alien’ as vast humming drones reverberate, only for lurking background strings and curiously delayed-out vocals to swirl in and out of focus in a vaguely hallucinatory manner, the ghostly traces of opera vocals that periodically rear their heads suggesting some weak radio transmission flickering in and out of range. ‘2a#Opera’ meanwhile makes the underlying orchestral elements more explicit as mournful strings slowly build against sudden jagged piano keys and the spectral trail of feather-light shuffling jazz snares, the entire track conjuring up all sorts of noirish filmic imagery before a rippling electronic pulse rises up out of the darkness, its cycling throb suggesting a techno track devolved of pretty much all rhythmic elements.
If there’s the underlying sense of the tracks here being deliberately arranged into a constantly building thematic cycle, ‘5a#Opera’ represents its climax as pulsing electronic tones trace a path beneath dark, horror movie style flourishes of atonal orchestration and scraping violins, the entire track seeming to descend through a wash of phasing into a gentler but no less sinister fugue section before the strings once again build into a psychedelic roar of distorted tones. If the aforementioned track sees proceedings reaching their spectacular peak, ‘6a#Opera’ unveils the calm following the storm as the sounds of field recorded rain and car tyres merge with cricket-like whirring electronic tones, before serene synth arrangements unfurl into the foreground, the emotive pull of the phased melodies calling to mind the sheeny grandeur of Vangelis’ ‘Blade Runner’ score. Emotive and enveloping stuff that’s well worth seeking out.