Francisco López – Untitled, Live at Cafe Oto (#1) (World Première)

by 5:4

Today’s Advent Calendar piece is the first of two live, untitled performances given by Spanish sound artist Francisco López at Cafe Oto in London in March 2015. The performances were originally presented in four channels, with members of the audience invited to wear eye masks in order to plunge themselves into total darkness and thereby immerse themselves more fully into López’s soundworlds.

It’s interesting to note that essentially none of the sound sources are readily identifiable. Emerging from extremely high, almost inaudible pulses, there’s the impression of something frictional, almost like breathing, leading to an equilibrium of sorts. Within this equilibrium is a recurring sequence of what i can only call anti-accents, various noise elements (pitch is more an implication than an actual presence) and tiny glitches quietly pulling at the fabric of the texture. Though there are lots of elements at play, nothing predominates, and this is a feature of the performance as a whole.

There’s considerable dynamic flux, though, and having added more layers, establishing a clearer mingling of noise and pitch (an oscillating minor third can be heard somewhere), pretty much everything cuts out. leaving just faint vestiges at extremes of register. The music is put back together again via scratchy, granular sounds, elusive and small, and López allows this plenty of time to develop, becoming an itchy environment. A new equilibrium is formed when hollow traces of pitch start to appear, eventually leading to a stratified texture with a strong sense of different tempi simultaneously, our focus sliding smoothly between each layer as it catches the ear.

Again (around the midpoint) the music cancels out, this time almost entirely, coming back to life via the most vague signs of movement, light tactile sounds that can barely be described as tangible. Very slowly they gain substance, motes of electronic patter colour the surface and new strata are introduced to create the third and final equilibrium, one that ultimately yields to more demonstrative percussive material. Rather than cancelling it out, López opts to transform it into sharp dirty streaks of pitch evaporating upwards, ending with a brief but intense jittering shiver.

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