Arbol + Fibla: Bu San
spa.RK / Emilii

If there's a ‘cinematic' quality to Bu San, no one should be too surprised. The album, after all, is nothing less than an ‘alternative' soundtrack to Tsai Ming-Liang's 2003 near-silent film Goodbye Dragon Inn that Spanish electronica producers Fibla (Vicent Fibla) and Arbol (Miguel Marín) first performed live at the behest of the BAFF (Barcelona Asia Film Festival) alongside a 2008 screening of the film in Barcelona and then subsequently re-created in the studio a year later.

It's a collaboration in the truest sense, as Fibla and Arbol share composing credits on all of the tracks and, more significantly, contribute equally to the album's eleven settings, which the duo dress in a rich palette of piano, glockenspiel, dulcimer, melodica, xylophone, percussion, ocarina, Chinese harp, and laptop-generated textures. Put in its simplest terms, the material, largely melancholy in nature (as attested to by song titles such as “So Much of the Past Lingers in Our Heads” and “The Last Dance (Can't Let Go)”), deftly blends Fibla's electronic and Arbol's acoustic instrument sounds with the lyricism of guest Sara Fontán's violin playing. Indicative of the album's character, “Last Screening” opens the album with plaintive violin playing accompanied by a portentous mix of strings and vibraphones, “How to Deliver a Red Bean Bun” presents a sweetly singing serenade graced by Pérez's playing and glockenspiel sparkle, and “Start Again Again” provides a lush, brooding setting for acoustic piano and Fontán's hypnotic violin. In keeping with the generally uplifting spirit of the music, “Quite Sure This Place is Haunted” is anything but the dour piece of music its title suggests it will be but is instead three minutes of early morning sparkle. Adding to the material's picturesque atmosphere are omnipresent rain drizzle, footsteps, fragments of conversation, and the quiet click of an old projector. What results is what one would expect: an oft-melodramatic yet extremely pretty and seductive hour of ‘pictures for the mind.'

December 2009