Ricardo Donoso: Machine To Machine
Denovali Records

A so-called “treatise on the psychophysics of our contemporary age,” Machine to Machine is the follow-up to Ricardo Donoso's early-2015 release Sarava Exu. In being presented with a title such as Machine to Machine, the listener might ready him/herself for a perhaps punishing set of uncompromising electronic noise productions, but as it turns out the fifty-three-minute recording is a whole lot more accessible than that title might suggest. It's stretching things a bit to characterize the ten settings as songs, yet there is nevertheless something song-like about their structures and durations. As a result, Machine To Machine registers as a surprisingly accessible work, while at the same time qualifying as a thoroughly experimental electronic creation.

In contrast to Sarava Exu, which featured contributions by Brent Tanrelo on violin and viola, Machine To Machine is a purely solo creation by the Boston-based Donoso. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the composer, percussionist, and electronic musician has both formally studied at Berklee College of Music and performed as a drummer in the avant-death metal outfit Ehnahre and as one-half of the electronic duo Perispirit. Needless to say, Donoso draws upon all such experiences when crafting his material, Machine to Machine and otherwise.

Noise, electronica, and dub-techno are three of the primary genres he threads into the album's ten settings. Yet while noise does constitute part of the sound design, it's noise of a subdued kind, and consequently a satisfying balance is achieved within the individual tracks regardless of their stylistic differences. After “Akrasia” introduces the set with atmospheric electronica of dramatic sweep and cinematic suggestiveness, the classical strings setting “HaR1” morphs from plaintive beginnings to something more foreboding and ominous, and “Pinnacle” and “Some Buy the Locks” offer propulsive takes on synthesizer-based electronica. Indicative of the range encompassed by the recording is the fact that it can make room for both “Dance of Attunement,” a pretty lullaby-like meditation filled with music box tinklings, and “The Iron Cage,” a mystery-laden sound painting that plays like a miniature horror film soundtrack to a torture chamber episode.

With a tribal dub-techno pulse providing kinetic thrust to its burbling electronics, “Axon Terminal” could pass for a Deadbeat production. There's scene-painting aplenty but rhythmic heft, too, and in including such a muscular bottom end the track stands out as one of the collection's most memorable; “The Stretching of the Cord” likewise invites comparison to Deadbeat for the density and humidity of its atmosphere and for the punchiness of its percolating groove. And like the best Deadbeat productions, Donoso's aren't merely beat-based tracks but instead fully realized compositions packed with melodic and rhythmic incident.

September 2015