Francisco López & Lawrence English HB

[Baskaru; 2009]

Styles: musique concrète, field recordings, noise
Others: Chris Watson, Helene Provost, Chantal Dumas, BJ Nilsen

When you think of field recordings and musique concrète, you might not think about pumping your system at full volume and rocking out. But the heavy buzz of insect wings on HB deserves a full-on bass amp -- your computer speakers won’t do these pieces justice. The wild shifting within this record is a discursive musical mind-fuck, and timid listeners not used to noise and the harsh nature of electronic music might not appreciate the temerity of Francisco López's and Lawrence English's distinct visions. But if you can get down, this is one for the true of heart.

Although it is perhaps a little romantic to think that this album could somehow be perpetrated on the uninitiated — on an unknowing audience ill-prepared for an auditory journey — it makes an apt introduction to artfully manipulated field recordings. Perhaps you might think that phraseology a little taut and overstated for an album that is, at its heart, a mutation of the sounds of nature. But then again, newbie listeners may never have been this close to nature’s potential as a vehicle for experimentation.

Francisco López, born in 1964 Spain, has been plying his trade as an avant-garde musician for almost 30 years now, releasing over 200 works of sound art. He specializes in installations and live performance, preferring darkness and blindfolded audience members to fully capture the intent of his sensory experience. Lawrence English, meanwhile, is an Australia-based musician, but in contrast to López, his background includes much more work as a curator. That is not to slight the abundance of recording and sound installation work that he has created, but rather to highlight his role as an organizer and behind-the-scenes figure.

The experiment here is two-fold: López’s "Untitled #175," an exploration of the sounds at Villablanca in San Ramon, Costa Rica; and English’s "Wire Fence Upon Opening," recorded at Samford Valley near Brisbane. The two then traded the pieces and mutated each other’s work into something new, leaving us with four tracks: López, English mutation, English, López mutation.

Enticing one to listen would involve invoking descriptors such as insectile, squirmy, creepy, churning, gut-wrenching, terrifying, startling, quiet, disturbing, bewildering, challenging, aggravated, lost, futuristic, unstable. To wit, it is an existential sensory tour-de-force. But I find it unnecessary to go into a detailed narrative about all the ins and outs of 50-plus minutes of material that hinges so heavily on experience. TMT is not about music description anyway, and I'm positive anyone who is going to take the time to find and listen to this album will be pleased and surprised by what they discover.

Truth be told, HB has already gone a long way towards reinvigorating my interest in the avant-garde, electronic, and experimental music scenes. López and English do a fantastic job of creating original music with an alien texture, making this more than just a collection of field recordings. The four tracks blend together in a way that belies the intent behind the mutation motif, demonstrating that these are two artists sheared from the same yard of fabric.

1. Francisco López: Untitled #175
2. Lawrence English: Pattern Review By Motion
3. Lawrence English: Wire Fence Upon Opening
4. Francisco López: Untitled #204

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