Juan Manuel Castrillo El Coro de Arasy

[Gruenrekorder; 2014]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: field recordings
Others: Nite Lite, Jeremy Hegge, Budhaditya Chattopadh​yay

El Coro de Arasy is a single-track field recording captured at night in Parque Nacional Calilegua, Argentina. It’s a bold and political work that separates varying degrees of distance between the recording equipment and the furthest inflection of natural resonance. Each layer assumes a rich and diverse sonic tapestry while illustrating the imminent threat that lingers at the edge of what can be heard. By distilling the interplay between sub-Andean biodiversity and its discreet eradication, Juan Manuel Castrillo’s track triggers three interwoven responses, which can be identified in the following ways:

1. Threat: a sense of impending doom that’s clear in the otherwise anonymous collective tone of Castrillo’s cast.
2. Immediacy: as caused by subtle movements and their proximity to Castrillo’s equipment.
3. Sorrow: a consequence of the mechanical, motorized sounds that encircle the subject.


There is a fascinating rhythm to be found in the fractured hum that washes over this otherwise dense and elaborate landscape. It’s near impossible to identify the source of the croaks, groans, ticks, swills, and pulses that carve their way about the fiery static of evening air, but they seem confounded by an apparent feeling of distress, at least to begin with. They do not flare or rise at the sign of a motorized vehicle, but they continue in their constant bombardment of secret language, of calls and of reflexes that will remain forever unknown. And yet, through their consistency, there is enough to recognize patterns — or regular occurrences — that bridge a geographical divide between the location and the audience.


Without warning, something will break under the weight of a moving body. The effect is minor, but Castrillo positions his equipment in a way that makes it identifiable. It disturbs the flow caused by his natural subject, but it doesn’t break its pace, at least not in a way that’s noticeable. Castrillo has been scrupulous in forging this connect, this sense of immediacy between those who are listening and the moment in which he is recording. It gives us, the audience, ideas of proximity, as to just how distant the furthest creatures are and how close our curator is to the most immediate living entity. In achieving this, Castrillo brings us into the framework of his project; we are no longer a passive audience drenched in exotic fuzz, but participants in the work and witnesses to its careful and precise unveiling.


When introducing the release, Castrillo discusses forest degradation. He talks about “jungle land being converted for factory farming,” as well as other damage — “fires, loss of habitat for transportation projects etc.” It’s the lack of a distinct reaction from his subject that conjures a feeling of deep sorrow when anything “unnatural” can be depicted here. The source of constant drone responsible for broadcasting that natural sound is unperturbed by a vehicle that patrols nearby. It’s apparent throughout the track — starting out in the left speaker and working its way around to the right, as though surrounding our natural species entirely. There is no distinguishable reaction — the reaction may well be there, but it doesn’t come in a form that would alter our instinctive perception — and this gives the impression that either the wildlife (the jungle as a singular, living entity) is on edge and in a constant state of alarm, or that this mechanical sound is all too familiar and any reaction we might expect is unjustified. Either way, the motion Castrillo captures through this brief snapshot ignites a feeling of anguish, regardless of our understanding.

El Coro de Arasy is an unsettling listen, but it carries the weight of an artefact both personal and affecting. As a consequence of Castillo’s well-crafted narrative, he brings a sense of expectation to the piece before eradicating any preconceived notion as to what could happen next. It’s a dramatic work that’s bolstered by both the resilience of his subject and the peril it faces, which comes amplified through a coarse and gritty stampede of sound that was captured during a single evening on “el monte.”

Links: Juan Manuel Castrillo - Gruenrekorder

Most Read