Ricardo Donoso: A Song for Echo

A Song for Echo is something new for Ricardo Donoso. Since 2011, the solo recordings of the Brazilian-born composer and producer, a Berklee graduate and sometimes death-metal drummer, have been concerned primarily with the expressive potential of synthesizers. Progress Chance, Assimilating the Shadow, and As Iron Sharpens Iron, One Verse Sharpens Another brim with quicksilver frequencies, gravelly formants, and shimmering, mirage-like washes of tone. Sometimes his sounds are reminiscent of physical instruments like pipe organs; more often, they feel like signals picked up by a radio telescope, or pure electricity poured through a sieve.

Those records were just as concerned with the expressive potential of sequencers—hardware devices, and sometimes virtual instruments, used for triggering arpeggiated patterns of notes as well as the filters and effects that color them. Reduced to simple contrapuntal phrases, Donoso’s sequences came across like glistening series of dewdrops arrayed across spiders’ webs vibrating in midair. Shorn of the drums that would scan as “techno,” they felt less like dance music and more like perpetual motion machines. Earlier this year, with Nitrogen Narcosis, released under his Scuba Death alias on Seattle’s Further label, he delved more explicitly into dancefloor aesthetics—albeit slowed down by half and still almost percussion-free, save for a dull kick drum buried deep in the mix. But here, on the inaugural release for his own Kathexis label, he switches up his process, eschewing the safety net of repetitive beats and expanding his palette to include a wealth of electro-acoustic material of uncertain provenance.

Divided into seven roman-numeraled parts, the 29-minute album feels very much like a film score; it proceeds seamlessly from one segment to the next, and it’s heavy on atmosphere but light on song-like structure. And, in fact, it is a film score; Donoso’s music is the accompaniment to Julie Nymann’s film of the same name, a re-telling of the Echo and Narcissus myth created specifically for a 360-degree surround-image projection in the Boston Museum of Science’s Charles Hayden Planetarium. That immersive dimension helps contextualize the music’s slow, shifting movements.

The album opens with resonant drones reminiscent of Seefeel’s Succour; bells and plucked-metal synthesizers chime against a backdrop that might be airplanes buzzing high overhead. A thudding pulse lends a hint of dub techno; midrange arpeggios, echoing Monolake’s carefully sculpted arrangements, flash like goldfish darting through muddy ponds. It’s occasionally reminiscent of Vladislav Delay’s early, abstracted work; the massing drones and bowed bass and scraping sheets of metal also suggest the Haxan Cloak‘s waxy horror. As the album proceeds, it builds into something almost overpowering—an enormous basso throb accompanied by the grating sound of knives being sharpened, metal gates swinging back and forth in the wind; swollen reverb sings the wind-tunnel blues. And then, like a storm passing overhead, it all fades to silence.

Speaking to Marc Masters and Grayson Currin for their column The Out Door, Donoso described A Song for Echo as “a springboard,” noting, “all the ideas on it are still very much segregated, naked & exposed—much like Progress Chance was. Slowly, over the next few releases—these building blocks will evolve into much deeper & developed structures.” There’s plenty of room for him to develop the ideas broached here; rhythmically and texturally, A Song for Echo sounds like he’s just beginning to blaze a trail that leads beyond the limits of the Digitalis trilogy. But it’s exciting to hear Donoso reconnecting, however tentatively, with the intensity of his metal band, Ehnahre. If Echo is the sound of stormclouds massing, perhaps the deluge is just around the corner. 

from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1tjDblT