Shatter Your Illusions

Emitter Micro in Berlin continue their plan to permeate the culture as “a reduced label of sound”…last heard from with their Jan 2018 release AKP which did feature label boss Kris Limbach with two other coal-facers, producing one fine blankety slab of minimal hoo-hah from digital manicure set.

Today we meet once again Francisco López, the Spanish composer who has worked so hard and been so prolific in establishing his own unique brand of “minimalism”, stamping it on the world much like a virtual seal attached to a digital certificate. Used to be, López was renowned for being ultra-quiet, his near-silent plough-runs through the snow of noise, then he turned the tables on his enemies with louder, machine-like assemblages such as Untitled #275 in 2011. This untitled#360 (EM010) might seem to belong to the latter category in some respects, since if you set the laser down in the right spot you can enjoy a good roustering of abstract steel-blocks to the forehead as capable as any New Blockaders record of discombobulated hammering.

But that’s just on ‘Movement 1’ of what is designed as a three-act symphony, with the middle utterance taking up best part of 55 mins. This ‘Movement 2’ is the one that has had all the music journalists of Lithuania in a tizzy, proceeding along its mysterious pathway with the unhurried assurance of a ghostly park attendant wearing soft-soled gumboots as he treads a lawn made of astro-turf. It’s also packed with incidents and events, veering from atmospheric weather drifterments to more solid spade-fuls of earth being shovelled headlong into your pockets – assuming you use your trouser pockets for listening purposes. What it comes down to is that the Spanish One is trying to make a sound effects record. This is a jolly good idea. I wish more musicians would try it. Mark Vernon came close with his hospital type record and indeed many of his other tape-assembly things feel like lost sound effects LPs from an unknown dimension of 1970s England.

López however is trying to subvert any conventional notions we might bring to the picnic, starting with the obvious one – story-telling. He denies narrative, much like English avant-garde cinema attempted to do in the London Film-Makers Co-op. “Instead of sound effects providing realism to a narrative,” states Sen. López, “the open shell of an apparent narrative becoming sound work” is his intention. He is quite clear that he regards this as “an astonishing reversal of the traditional widespread subservience of sound to story-telling”. If this really is how he feels, he must hate going to the cinema! At all events, I take this to mean that untitled#360 is undercutting our expectations at every turn, and even though we may try to “hear” that whirring noise as motors or factory machinery at work, we shouldn’t be doing so, and instead just accept it as pure sound, as pure sound art. Failure to do so on our part exhibits our complete lack of “willingness to listen to the actual sonic matter itself”. I’ve given it my all, but still have the sense that my listening skills are not up to par.

Even so this is one fab groovester. You may recall this guy once did a great record about buildings in New York where he found a bargeload of interest in details most janitors in the brownstones would never even notice – lifts, air conditioners, rats playing poker in the basement, that sort of thing. Well, this one comes close to that meisterwerk of tape-scathery where conceptual ideas rubbed up against phonography in the best possible way. On this occasion, we get more friction than usual, more heat from the logs. I just wish López wouldn’t lecture us so much, trying to direct our ears, eyes and brains in a certain direction. That’s what I always resented about his “ya gotta wear the blindfold” stance when he used to do his live concerts, attempting to force us to concentrate on his genius. It’s the same impulse that drives him to refuse titling his works.

Even so, there are few recordists with the economy and stealth still operating in the world today who can match this guy when it comes to a good round of shadow-boxing with velvet staves. From 6th August 2018.