Spanish sound artist and experimental composer Francisco Lopez has the best holidays. He has gathered the sonic material for his pieces via his field recordings in incredible far-flung locales, from the tropical forests of Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Senegal, Gambia, China, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, Mexico, and Peru amongst numerous others. It’s ridiculous how far he has travelled for his art. What is also ridiculous is how much material he has amassed over the years. Compact discs no long longer work for Lopez, they’re too small. Instead he’s moved onto the USB, like this collection, which boasts 12 hours of uncompressed audio with excerpts from 138 different pieces. Yes, that’s right excerpts! If he included the full pieces we might be here for weeks. It’s a momentous and overwhelming document: a real achievement.
He’s grouped his material under sub headings like Delusional Cinematic and Non Representational Sound Matter, which again is a big step for Lopez who has never been fond of piece titles. That said there are still a few untitled #327’s and the like for all the hardcore Lopez listeners who want no context and no understanding of sound source or intention.
What we have is forty years of practice. It runs the gamut of the sonic world, everything from rain to microorganisms, industrial drones, machine electrics, elevator sounds, beer factories, radio transmissions, even musical elements like gamelan, prepared piano or other classical instruments. But most of the time you wouldn’t know this as Lopez’s editing and processing is extreme to say the least. He isn’t remixing the sonic worlds that he encounters on his travels, rather he is reprocessing, recontextualising and rebuilding – where only traces of the original source often remain, like fingerprints left on a glass. Lopez is remaking his own personal sonic world. I’ve always admired his ability and desire to harness the essence of a sound rather than its timbre per se, which is why so many of his works posses the visceral violence of mother nature, but you really can’t put your finger on what element you’re hearing. But then with Lopez its never been about sonic trainspotting, rather like his live performances where he blindfolds the audience, its about turning off the rational part of the mind and surrendering yourself to the pure unadulterated sonic experience.
Whilst he didn’t record all of the material on here, getting some assistance from the likes of Polish experimental musician Zbigniew Karkowski and Japanese sound artist Yui Onodera amongst numerous others, he has composed every piece in this collection. It’s fascinating to hear so many of his constructions in one place. I’ve always found his pieces quite dynamic, though never obvious – or at least not as obvious or easy as I’ve often wanted them to be. But that’s what keeps me coming back. He uses sound art strategies like slow builds to abrupt cuts, though also other elements of sound design like paying with density or timbre to fully immerse the listener in his world. There are also a few (what feels like) pure field recordings with no processing, which stand in stark contrast to his other work.
Something like this is almost impossible to review. It would take months to fully immerse yourself in a work of this magnitude. Obviously there are pieces on this recording I haven’t even encountered, yet that is the beauty of this USB, over the coming months I know I’ll return again and again. It’s a remarkable awe-inspiring testament to a remarkable awe inspiring sonic explorer.