Ever since I discovered sound art and field recording I have been fascinated by Francisco Lopez. Primarily it’s been due to his uncompromising approach. His recordings have frequently been made in some of the most exotic and incredible places on earth, yet he is adamant about giving nothing away in his track titles. Sure the raw ingredients in this case have been gathered in Lima, Peru, Crete, a reserve in South Africa and Panama City but the pieces are all untitled. He’s not exactly the salesman. But then he doesn’t necessarily need to be. His recordings, or his compositions are so immersive so textural, so dynamic and filled with so many questions, so many memories and ideas that they create their own worlds freed from expectations and geographic locations. In much the same way he blindfolds the audience during live shows, not titling his pieces allows the piece to do its work unencumbered by expectations or any previous baggage or experience.
Like much of his work this double cd set walks a tightrope between knowing and unknowing. His pieces evolve between known sounds into the unknown. They make you question your understanding of the sonic world, where cicadas can evolve (possibly) into lethargic underwater recordings with the tops rolled off, or birds can be enveloped by some kind of roaring weirdly natural sounding drone. He’s fascinated by silence, or near silence, both of which he uses regularly, curating the listening, with subtle bottom end or delicate near silence before abruptly adjusting the volume or approach between tracks, and jolting the listener out of his previous sound world. Whilst much of the material comes from external field recordings, occasional bumps on the mic etc, there are a few moments here of stuttering near rhythmic digitalia which is unexpected and jolting, and falls a little outside his long form pieces gathered from nature. But that’s the beauty of Lopez who has utilised everything from heavy metal bands to buildings to rain-forests – all sonics have value. Some of the material was not gathered by him, rather alternatively by Shhh, Lenka Moravkova, Zbigniew Karkowski and Ephraim Wagner. He calls what he has done to their recordings as an extreme revolution and is at pains to point out that these pieces are not remixes.
This is not easy listening. There is diversity in his sonics and his composition. Lopez’s approach to sound art is totally unique. Even writing this now as the rain falls outside or the heater kicks in repeatedly and I have to stop his recording to ensure that these sounds are not part of his compositions. Whilst there is no easily discernible narrative to follow, he is able to harness the power, violence and subtlety of his source material and draw this dynamism into new and unknown directions, and this is endlessly fascinating