(New Album Review) Federico Durand- El idioma de las luciérnagas

I’m not especially knowledgeable about electro-acoustic music but one of the newer faces in this field that I’ve been getting interested in lately is Federico Durand. I remember really enjoying an album of his called El Libro De Los Árboles Mágicos [The Book of Magical Trees].  His latest album, El idioma de las luciérnagas [The Language of the Fireflies] came out in September.

Durand announces his artistic intentions with the titles of his albums and songs: “The Book of Magical Trees”, “A city at the foot of a mountain”, “The little red fox”, “My little world of paper”. His music is mild, dreamy, almost  pious. The compositions are fairly short– he isn’t trying to blow your mind. He takes some of the drone composition techniques that are used in this genre and then scales them down to create short poems about an image, a scene.

I think it’s worth mentioning that other artists within this general area can come off as a bit distant and cold. Moreover, they oftentimes sound too similar to one another, and many don’t seem to present a unique vision. Durand’s pastoral sound art, loops of keyboards and pianos over forest scenes, is very effective at evoking an emotional response. Whereas someone like Tim Hecker or Loscil (and I like them both, I’ll say upfront) can simply interest me or puzzle me, Durand provokes my imagination and can set up a scene that I can emote with.

Compositions that use drones or are intended as ambient music are meant to be meditated over and can lend themselves well to different kinds of introspection. Durand’s music reminds me a little bit of childhood, of an innocently spiritual conception of people living close to nature, or just the natural world in the absence of people. At times, it conveys an emotion a bit like a child’s sense of wonder upon discovery of a secret and holy place. “The language of the fireflies”, “The mirror of a thousand years”, and “Huemul” are truly gorgeous pieces that stand as testament to this idealistic new artist’s power to tantalize the imagination. Part of what makes this music feel so sincere to me is the way that Durand prefers the piano to washes of synthesizers. The pieces unfold slowly, but they don’t strive for majesty or grandiloquence. The chords in the piece “Huemul”, for instance, drift in as gently as the first stirrings of a frozen stream at the beginning of spring.

It’s nice to find an ambient album like this, and honestly, I wish more sound artists were as original as Federico Durand.

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