(New Album Review) Juan Carlos Vasquez- Collages

Here comes a particularly intriguing submission from London, Collages by sound artist Juan Carlos Vasquez.

Collages is a work driven by its concept: primarily to take the works of Satie, Beethoven, Ysaÿe, Bach, and Chopin and to translate them into the electro-acoustic idiom. The album is mostly composed of samples of Vasquez’s performances of the works of different composers, radically remixed, to fit the abstraction of the project’s manifesto. One work, “Landscapes” does not come annotated with a composer, and the concluding work is dedicated to Jorge Luis Borges.

Another key to understanding the project is to see that it is also driven by Vasquez’s choice not to disclose his source material. The intentions of the project are shrouded in a veil of mystery, as most will not be able to discern what works of these composers have been drawn from for the project. However, ultimately, one’s level of interest in the source material does not have that much impact on one’s reaction to the finished work.

Anyone with a good ear will discern that this is a superior work in the electro-acoustic field. Vasquez’s work is eerie and jarring– I was particularly impressed with the 8th track on this piece, after Bach. I am not so sure that Vasquez’s take on these works expands our perception of these composers so much as it seems to be his highly idiosynchratic take on his perceptions of these composers’ works. In “Collage 8”, you can hear Vasquez burrowing deep into his most abstract mental reactions towards Bach– the soaring tones from the organ collapse into dissonance, but the tension is eventually resolved with a calm drone. Tension, then release. It’s a very interesting album, and it took me a long time to know how to react to it. I was particularly fascinated by the droning, ominous “Collage 3”, after Ysaÿe. If you were to show me this piece and simply say, “This is dark ambient”, I would’ve loved it, and simply delved into the interesting impressions conjured up by the work. Nearly all of Vasquez’s pieces toy around with this sinister, 12-tone territory, the realm of modern art music and onward. Vasquez’s grasp of structure is impressive– take for instance, the way that a long stretch of dissonance and chaos melts into something more smooth-flowing at the 8 minute mark in “Collage 3” .

Collages is a challenging, fascinating work. Whether its the pleasant undulations of “Collage 5 The Acrobat (After Satie)” or the dramatics of “Collage 1 (After M. Mussorgsky)”, the album will compel you to look back into the works of these different composers with a different ear, and to re-listen to the album itself to try and catch all the things that you may have missed the first two times around.

I strongly urge you to check out this engaging and dreamlike work of electroacoustic art. One cannot help but be feel strongly the impression of Borges, from that closing track– labyrinths that are only deceptively complex, for one need only inspect closely to understand. I have a feeling that I will be returning to it again and again over the next few months, locked in conversation with it, working to uncover its (at the moment) obscure secrets.

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