Federico Durand: El éxtasis de las flores pequeñas
Own Records

Federico Durand's previous collection, La siesta del cipres (The Nap of the Cypress) landed in the number thirty-four spot in textura's 2010 year-end list, so we were more than a little delighted when his third album, El éxtasis de las flores pequeñas (The Ecstasy of Little Flowers), showed up at our door. It's an intimate and poetic collection from the Buenos Aires-based Durand, who crafted it as a mystical excursion towards the gardens of his childhood in the Argentinean South (the field recordings come from gardens in Buenos Aires). The palette is modest—field recordings, acoustic guitar, piano, and not much else—but the recording makes an impact due to the producer's sensitive handling of the sound materials. Field recordings play a large part in the album, sometimes assuming such prominence that they almost overshadow the music elements (as in the opener “El pequeño huésped sigue dormido”) and at other times enhancing the mood when sounds of the natural and urban environments ground his peaceful meditations in a real-world context (such as during “La casa de los abuelo,” where the becalmed meander of a dusty piano is accompanied by traffic noises, creating the impression of someone having recorded the music at home while outside noises seeped in).

An intense downpour and traffic sounds are emphasized as much—if not even more when the rain turns to thunder—as the gentle drift of piano and guitar shadings that otherwise appear during “El pequeño huésped sigue dormido”—a promising if overlong opener that would function more effectively as a two-minute prelude. But not to worry—there's enough arresting music ahead to excuse that opening miscue. The focus shifts more to the musical end of the spectrum during the melancholy setting, “Los niños escriben poemas en tiras de papel rojo,” as acoustic guitar plucks resonate amidst a twilight idyll of crickets and bird chirps. Like misty details in a faded photograph, crystalline piano figures rise up from within a thick pool of hiss during the brief “Elin” (a reworked version of a track from his debut album), and in the especially placid “Atardecer en las montañas,” bells tinkle alongside a wavering drone. In the title track, flickers of guitar fill the air like fireflies, with the creator's presence audible in the sound of hands moving along the fretboard. The most memorable piece, “Kim,” arrives at the end, which allows the listener to hold onto the track's hypnotic guitar melodies long after the recording's done. Though it's melancholy in spirit and simple in construction like the rest of the album, the piece includes a looped chord progression that imprints itself strongly despite the field recording elements that occasionally wrap it in fog. A relatively short album at thirty-five minutes, El éxtasis de las flores pequeñas nevertheless makes a strong impression with its understated beauty and meditative aura.

April 2011