Francisco López: Amarok
Glacial Movements

A year ago, Francisco López himself said that “Amarok is probably one of the more isolationist and spookiest works I've ever done,” and indeed it is. In fact, one strains to hear any sound whatsoever during the single-movement work's opening thirty seconds, and when the first faint wisps appear, they do so ever-so-gradually with soft, muffled pounds exhaling against an even softer, high-pitched drone. Needless to say, López's quintessential ‘headphones' listen demands close listening in order to appreciate its nuances and subtleties. Two years of work went into creating the sixty-four-minute soundscape, with the Spanish producer using processed field recordings to simulate the barren, frozen plains of the Arctic.

Starting off gently, gusts of wind slowly build in intensity until they become turbulent. That ferocity is tempered when the piece abruptly plummets back to a microsound pitch, enabling it to resume its ascent again, this time augmented by what sounds like wheezing and panting (the word Amarok, incidentally, refers to a gigantic wolf in Inuit mythology). The sound mass turns blurry, and the hallucinatory episode that follows suggests someone wandering disorientedly amidst the blizzard and imagining sounds of howling wolves and industrial machinery in the distance. Just as weather patterns can be unpredictable, so too does Amorak advance and retreat dramatically. Thirty-eight minutes in, it vanishes into silence, with only micro-sound noise hinting it's still alive, and then reawakens a minute later with glacial rumble that eventually grows into seething, violent convulsions of industrial howl before the slow and inevitable retreat into silence. Despite the fact that López is one of the most ridiculously prolific artists in the experimental music field (this is the third textura issue in a row where a review of a new release by him has appeared, for example), Amarok, a natural addition to the Glacial Movements discography, distinguishes itself from other López recordings by being isolationist, long-form, and by adhering so faithfully to the album concept.

April 2010