Review of A Traves Del Espejo [12k1085]

Brainwashed (US)

Federico Durand’s music has always had an extremely intimate, hushed quality to it; akin to being in a small room with him as he records, and his newest release is no different. A Través Del Espejo, which translates to “through the mirror” is an apt metaphor for the sound of this record, given its glassy clarity and deliberate, brilliant use of loops and repetition. His use of Spartan instrumentation is especially effective, making the absolute most out of even the smallest sounds culminating in a gorgeous, multifaceted record.

Much of this album is constructed from the use of cassette tape loops, but the medium is usually secondary to the sound being played. A song such as “El Jarden Encanto” seems to be constructed from a plucked strings of some sort (Durand is fond of working with non-traditional instruments), and the whole piece ends up having an almost toy music box feeling to it. The brief “Mirador en la Montaña” (featuring Andrew Chalk on synthesizer) captures what could be gentle plucked strings and delicate chimes, with a distinct purity and clarity to the sound.

On “Teatro de Sombras,” he once again constructs from sounds that most closely resemble chimes or pure, glassy tones, but by placing an emphasis on the lower end parts of the sonic spectrum, the resulting piece takes on a very different quality than some of the other, lighter moments on the record. “Diorama” may be a bit lighter with the expansive tones and twinkling bits of noise that define it, but it is a cold, frosty beauty rather than a warm, embracing one. “El Grillo de Nácar” is one of the album’s softest moments, with what could be a low fidelity nature recording blended with some light, airy plucked notes that is anything but cold.

Durand’s use of analog tape as a source material does creep to the forefront at other moments, however. “Linternas Junto a la Laguna” slightly sputtering analog noises and inconsistent tones feel much more in line with the unpredictability of cassettes, and also culminates in a piece that stands out due to its less pristine sound quality. “Hora de Dormir”‘s only obvious musical element seems to be a piano of some sort, but instead the focus is on the taped conversations, children in the distance, and so on. It has such a distinctly domestic feel to it that, while not specifically musical, fits in squarely with the more intimate moments of the album. The title song begins with wet noise akin to that of rewinding tape, with Durand including sustained, ghostly waves of reversed sounds. The early moments are more dissonant (at least in relative terms), but by its conclusion, the loops lock into a near groove, to end the album on an almost conventional passage of music.

Like his previous album El Estanque Esmerelda, Federico Durand blends the sparsest of instrumentation and the lightest of processing to make for an album that resonates with the most delicate of sensibilities. His unique approach to instrumentation and deliberately luddite-like approach to recording ties together as an inviting, extremely personal sounding record that renders the simplest string pluck into a dramatic, beautiful orchestral passage.

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