Manrico Montero: Betweenness

On Betweenness, Mexico City-based sound artist Manrico Montero personalizes the soundscaping genre in a strikingly imaginative way: by including other musician's distinctive voices alongside his own. Only two of the album's eight electroacoustic settings feature Montero by himself: the tranquil “Evening Roads” whose peaceful garden he tills using guitar, keyboards, and the rustle of field recordings, and “Like Golden Blossoms,” a delicate wonderland of sparkling sounds and textures that's as carefully designed as a Japanese garden. That placid feel extends through much of the material, as Montero supplements his own heavily-textured pieces with the saxophone, vibes, vocals, viola, piano, violincello, and guitar contributions of his guests.

Some tracks feature one guest only—Eduardo Melendez's sax drifts across the gaseous mass resonating through “Tangencies / Part 1,” for example—but most have multiple musicians appearing on the same piece, allowing for some splendid interaction between them. On “Aster,” Montero's ambient washes become a backdrop for Hidekazu Wakabayashi's elegant piano playing and the steely swarm and blissful soloing of Alexandre Navarro's and Dennis Moser's guitars. “Tangencies / Part 2” pairs the shuddering stream of Alexander Bruck's viola with Melendez's sax and Vera Ostrova's dreamy vocal murmur. Stefano Tedesco's vibes shimmer across the surface of “Sky Flowers” while sinuous sprinklings of viola and violincello enhance the already-potent entrancement of “Sweet Dusk Spiral.” A few off-key moments by singer Ostrova mar “Sky Flowers” but Betweenness is an otherwise strong collection of placid soundscaping. Throughout the recording, Monteros smartly enriches his music with the voices of others, an inspired move that helps set his recording apart.

February 2009