C30 C60 C90 Go!

Francisco López
NO LABEL CD (2015)

Creating, recording and releasing sound and music couldn’t be easier these days. Tap a few glowing images on your Mother Box, zap the results into the magic everything machine, tell all those millions of friends-you’ve-never-actually-met about it, and Bob’s your uncle. This isn’t an unmixed blessing, of course, although I’m not suggesting that things were necessarily better in the olden days. Just pointing out that it wasn’t always this way.

This release from the venerable and prolific Spanish sound artist Francisco López is a case in point. It’s a document of a time when he had nothing to work with except cheap cassette recorders – no reel-to-reel recorders, no synthesizers, no rhythm machines or any of the other “prototypical experimental tools of the time”, as he says in the sleeve notes. All of the sounds you hear on the disc were recorded, transformed and processed entirely on cassette.

As evidence of a working method and the formative years of an artist, this is certainly fascinating. As a listening experience in its own right, my first impression was that it’s somewhat featureless collection of lower-register hums and rumbles. However, closer inspection reveals further details below the surface, like looking at the wall of a cave and realising that a prehistoric inhabitant has shaped a natural outcropping into the outline of a bison. The cave analogy is apt, because a lot of these tracks sound subterranean. Quite how López managed to uncover echoing voids in what I presume are field recordings of Madrid street life is something that can only be wondered at.

Worth a listen, then, if only to remind yourself of the paradoxically liberating nature of limitation, or, as López himself says, “the most essential tools are spiritual, not technical.”