Via his label Discrepant and its assorted offshoot sub imprints, sound artist and composer Gonçalo F Cardoso has championed the exotic soundscape – amazing recordings from far flung locales, layering the environment with traditional music’s, and field recordings, to create a rich recontextualised travelogue.
Impressões de uma Ilha was crafted during a month long stay in a beach hut on the main island of the Zanzibar archipelago. He reports recording at low tide, sailing in wooden dhows and on walks in the village. There’s rain, fire, waves, parrots, fisherman talking, yet it’s all interspersed with more musical elements, such as chants, strings, thumb piano and percussion. It’s incredibly diverse, and you get the sense that there was real benefit to spending such a long period in one place, allowing him to get to know its rhythms and pulses. Cardoso’s world is a place where exotica meets sound art, an idealised audio representation of place, and it’s really enticing. Everything about this album is idyllic. It possesses a really relaxed lackadaisical feel, there is nothing abrupt, it all just flows, evolves gently between elements. This feels like summer at the beach on an exotic island. In this sense it’s hard not to be reminded of Mike Cooper’s tropical voyage to the Pacific, Fratello Mare (Room40), which though focussing more on extended instrumental techniques, managed to possess a similar nostalgic yearning for place.
Perhaps the most unexpected element is the radiophonic AM/FM fiddling, capturing these strange worlds beneath the static, before moving on. It’s a real; departure from the earthy exotics. Yet it’s also another mysterious sound world to explore, and it times it harkens back to a nostalgic memory – of a transistor radio at the beach. There’s a playfulness with which he composes his sounds, a real warmth.
It feels relatively straightforward, and in fact Cardoso admits that “a lot of what you hear was done on the spot with some minor adjustments done later.” Yet this is a fully articulated recording. He also uses the stereo field, in a more compositional sense, periodically bouncing sounds between the left and right speaker.
As a work of art, Impressões de uma Ilha is the best travel brochure you’re ever going to come across. Even with a cursory listen it’s impossible not to be transported to an island utopia. Whether it actually exists or not is totally irrelevant.