Ulises Conti: Los Griegos creían que las estrellas eran pequeños agujeros por donde los dioses escuchaban a los hombres

Ulises Conti's Los Griegos creían que las estrellas eran pequeños agujeros por donde los dioses escuchaban a los hombres (The Greeks Believed That the Stars Were Small Holes Where the Gods Listened to Men) is an admittedly unusual, even odd recording. Totaling sixty-nine minutes, the collection presents twenty-seven compositions of dramatically contrasting character titled after the alphabet letters A through Z (the additional number comes from the fact that both “N” and “Ñ” are included). Presented as a sound alphabet, the recording invites the listener to ponder questions about the parameters of music and what constitutes it, as well as how long an album should be and how many songs it should have. A motley crew if ever there was one, the pieces are both short and long (most two to three minutes in length), analog and digital, instrument- and fields recordings-based, and so on. Yet despite their disparity, the project holds together on account of its alphabet theme and the unifying presence of Conti's elegant piano playing.

There is a sense in which one shouldn't be overly surprised by the recording's eclectic spirit, given its creator's own history. Born in Buenos Aires in 1975, Conti is a man of many hats—composer (for film, dance, and theater), multi-instrumentalist, producer, and sound artist—whose music refuses to be constrained by any single genre. As mentioned, piano is the common element linking many of the pieces, though they too are contrasting in design: “C” and “F,” for example, are mournful solo piano ruminations, whereas “D” and “N” punctuate heavily processed flickers and bird chatter, respectively, with piano sprinklings. “L” and “S” assume the form of piano-and-electronica meditations whereas others, such as the a capella choral vignettes “A” and “Y,” grainy ambient-drone “H,” warbly synth-drone “M,” and skipping, Oval-esque “X” appear to eschew piano altogether.

Conti disrupts the acoustic purity of the instruments' sounds at times and comes across as a restless explorer intent on carving out new paths for himself. In that regard, many of the album's pieces play like laboratory experiments that document Conti trying out new ideas and allowing his instincts and imagination to take him where they will. “K,” for instance, augments his reverb-tinted piano playing with a shimmering synthetic-sounding backdrop, resulting in a delicate setting of serenading, dream-like character. If anything, the album conveys the feel of a travelogue, with tour guide Conti, portable piano in tow, exposing the listener to a broad range of sights and scenes.

August-September 2014