MYSTERY SEA 52| Juan José Calarco| [Dársena Interna]


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"an almost abandoned docks area in the Buenos Aires harbour still untouched, preserving the weary and somehow blackened beauty of what seems immutable; the river at night as a presence that dyes the air"

-Juan José Calarco, August 2008


Coming across Argentinian sound artist Juan José Calarco's works is a penetrating & unique perceptive experience.
Based essentially on urban field recordings meticulously selected, processed & assembled, his soundscapes seem to tap the collective Subconscious, as well as depicting a fundamental Mystery imbuing all things...
With the consistence of a gas, his music, an amalgam of volatile emanations & vital fluids, seeps through every pore...
After several pieces for compilations, releases for netlabels (TIBprod, Test Tube...), a 3"cdr for the now defunct The Locus of Assemblage imprint, a to be continued refined collab with Adrián Juárez, and other collabs with Ubeboet & Pablo Reche ("Biesi" on SIJIS), and H Stewart ("Swan of Skin"), he has put together a baffling full-length of metaphysical proportions for MS...

"Dársena Interna" is breathing backgrounds,
half-light whispers,
a draught in a remote tunnel,
damp walls & channels...

a nocturnal diary of omnipresent streams,
clinkings, dilutions, & scraped stones...

a thin layer of dust & memories strata,
trembling pools & blurred reflections...

"Dársena Interna"'s dripping docks
unlock an ineffable realm of new sensations,
and its faint echoes spread a trail of truth...

Those who become permeable will leave changed...






VITAL WEEKLY 678|Frans De Waard    
The name Juan José Calarco popped up in Vital Weekly, back in issue 631 when I reviewed a collaboration of his with Ubeboet and Pablo Reche, but otherwise I know not much about this composer. He is from Argentina and had various releases on the internet. He works, according to Mystery Sea, 'essentially on urban field recordings meticulously selected, processed & assembled', which seems to me drifting (excuse le mot) away from the general water theme the releases on Mystery Sea generally have. Which of course is hardly a problem, its the end result that counts here. The water sounds that we hear in the first part of 'Dársena Interna' is not from the (mystery) sea, but rain dripping in buildings. I think. His field recordings are pretty interesting and he has put them together into quite an interesting collage of sound. Not unlike Christopher McFall urban soundscapes, Calarco moves around the city - at night I would think, hearing his music - and records elevators, ventilators and obscure empty spaces, and the music he creates from that sounds rather dark and gloom. The soundtrack to a movie about a killer loose in the city. Mysterious music that has a rather unsettling character, but it sounds great. Cinematic qualities all around here.
vital weekly

JUST OUTSIDE|Brian Olewnick  
Babelfish yields "internal dock" for the title, which struck me as unwieldy and likely to benefit from a more idiomatic translation until I read Calarco's own description: "an almost abandoned docks area in the Buenos Aires harbour still untouched, preserving the weary and somehow blackened beauty of what seems immutable; the river at night as a presence that dyes the air". And yes, in one form or another, pier-side aural images dominate and are distributed quite well, with more directness than, say, Tsunoda, but with a great appreciation of texture, varying from mechanical to natural (water in various guises) to something indeterminate. I can't say it hits with the same force as the best of someone like Tsunoda, but it's thoroughly satisfying from beginning to end, making Calarco someone I'm definitely interested in hearing from again. He establishes a real sense of evocative, complex place.

just outside

THE WIRE #306 - Outer Limits|Jim Haynes  
Argentine sound artist Juan José Calarco relies upon the urban environment for the source material in his compositions.
The din of traffic reflecting across hard architectural surfaces, the fluid patterns of wind rippling around buildings, and the hiss of rain tapping against brick and steel feature prominently in his work. Unlike the stoic presentations of urbanity from Francisco López and M Behrens, Calarco codifies these field recordings with a noir theatricality. Throughout Dársena Interna, the shadowy rumblings flash with occasional details in relief, for example a bridge groaning against the weight of a car cruising by. True to the noir aesthetic, the rains is always falling in Calarco's city. It could be Buenos Aires, Berlin, Tokyo, or San Francisco. Whichever take on Gotham this is, his portrait doesn't present it with an ominous bleakness ; instead he hears the sublime and the mysterious in the city.

The Wire

My previous exposure to the work of Argentine musician Calarco (his mini CD on Locus of Assemblage) had been very favourable so I was quite excited about this new release on the always recommended Mystery Sea label. Calarco’s soundworld has, at it's base, a distinctly urbanized setting. His music is embedded into a oppressive, hissing layer of industrialized (but not industrial) rumble. I'm hearing more and more of this sort of composition lately and the urban is increasingly replacing the industrial as the norm. The relentless battery of the industrial is no longer as valid a soundworld to many and so it no longer resonates as much as it maybe did previously. As such I think it's position is being usurped by sonic reproductions of the low-key background miasma of the modern urban environment. Calarco's composition is, I think, very reflective of this assumption. His music has a stark brutality that is tempered by the flecks of humanity that can be glimpsed through the haze of sound. I must admit that being a dedicated country dweller I find these sounds to be utterly inimical to a positive state of mind. As a composition though they are fascinating and beautifully orchestrated.
wonderful wooden reasons

Argentinean Calarco, previously met by yours truly on a 3-inch by the late The Locus Of Assemblage imprint and a collaborator of people such as Ubeboet and Pablo Reche, composed Dársena Interna entirely through the seaming and processing of metropolitan field recordings, thus creating an engulfing soundscape imbued of rumbles, undercurrents and from-the-underground reverberations.
Naturally we have encountered this variety of substances a thousand times before, but given the circumstance I don’t feel like disparaging the effort; it takes a degree of good judgment to pull this type of material together without making the outcome sound totally worn-out. Providentially, in this case the designer succeeded, in all probability because the essential sources are collected and exposed “as they are”, minus excessive intellectual mannerism or veiled implications. In a couple of occasions, distant echoing washes caused the recollection of personal memories of nocturnal insomnia imprinted by the remote roaring of passing trains, a chronic presence during adolescent ruminations over the course of many summers.
If you give up looking for the “unforgettable masterwork” for a moment this CD makes for pleasurable company, perhaps best enjoyed as a background soundtrack for semi-lucid considerations about the contingent aspects of existence. Whirr, hum, whoosh, thud. We all know how it goes. Still, this particular offering sounds as a honest job.

touching extremes

TOKAFI |Tobias Fischer   
The story needs to be told in full: Calarco has incorporated his entire view of the world into his first physical release.

Genius and madness are often closely related. Even though his first releases did not indicate as much, this somewhat cliched journalistic catchphrase may make for a surprisingly accurate description of the work of Juan Jose Calarco. To Calarco, the world is sound and sound is a mystery. Acoustic phenomena are without fail attached to physical objects, yet music remains nothing but an immaterial trembling of air and the subsequent processing of its signals within the ears and brain. What looks simple and straightforward may sound complex and intricately interconnected, opening up new interpretations of visual stimuli and adding meaning to otherwise opaque observations. Pervasive, seductively manipulative and powerful, it appears oddly incapable of existing on its own. What happens once noise is detached from its productive faculties? What would a world made of nothing but sound be like? What hidden narrative connects seemingly unrelated acoustic events? Calarco has made „Dársena Interna“ a philosophical treatise of finding out.
Perhaps it is only natural that after spending his educational years with driving down the data highway and enriching the netlabel scene with various  solo- and collaborative efforts, Calarco should incorporate his entire view of the world into his first physical release. It befits the idealism of someone aiming high and refusing to waste his time with petitesses, that the album feels as though it were the result of a passionate venesection, every vision, theme and concept bleeding from his heart in a blood-red creative explosion. „Dársena Interna“ is serious and serene, deep and dramatic, strangely unreal and surreally intangible and even though it clocks in at a mere 45 minutes, the sensation at the end is one of having just undergone a cleansing ritual of epic dimensions. Even though Brussels-based label Mystery Sea has diversified into the territory of installations before and shown a remarkable talent at avoiding outright repetition while carving out a distinct style, the only previous release on its roster baring any kind of resemblance to the daring radicalism of this oeuvre is Matthieu Ruhlmann's „Broken Vessels“, whose opening track was possessed by the same urge to burn all bridges and consider music a spiritual field and a playfield of ideas rather than a set of rules.
Just how far Calarco is willing to go becomes apparent in the maelstrom of the 21-minute first movement. Drones sound like the electric hum of a power station here, opaque and disembodied. Like a dense spiderweb strained across a geyseric pool, dark and brooding harmonic action is pulsating underneath its surface, like a string orchestra playing a Mahler symphony behind closed doors inside a haunted castle – but one can never fully make out whether the impression is real or merely a figment of one's nervous imagination. Discreet clicks and field recordings are static in one moment only to flare up in a howling wind the next as scenes segue in- and out of each other without any kind of obvious rationale. A particularly intriguing passage consists of nothing but giant water barrels dabbling in subaquatic scales and creating otherworldly pitches in elephantine slow-motion, their thudding tones separated by galactic voids resembling the howling of wind outside. For almost five minutes, the vision perpetuates, leaving the listener in a state of disoriented transfixation. Then, Calarco mans the decks anew, guiding the composition to an almost ethereal ending, which fizzles out into a strangely touching emptiness.
Related motives are scattered across the canvas, each time appearing within a slightly different context and with a subtly nuanced functionality. They serve as constant reminders that this unruly galaxy is, in fact, continuous and inherently connected. „Dársena Interna“ was recorded at all but empty harbor docks in Buenos Aires and the simultaneity of rust, planes of concrete, isolation and invisibly directed machinal activity shines through in the music. The steely debris turns into a metaphor for decay, decline and the defiant will to struggle on. Calarco's impression seems to be that the story needs to be told in full: After all, this wasteland was shaped by days of glory, joy and restless activity alike. Consequentially, he counterpoints its stretches of lifeless solitude with sequences of factory noises and cargo trucks disappearing into the distance. Only the final section has ended up a soft emotional impression: Raindrops are falling on top of a corrugated sheet roof, struggling against the surge of other images in the mind of the spectator and evaporating in the white of gentle apathy towards the end.
Calarco moves artfully through the maze of the world he has created, striking upon some unexpected relationships between his sources and fearlessly subjecting his pieces to some crass transitions and dauntless mood ruptures. As if directing a morphing video of various faces, his camera is panning in an undiscriminating 360 degree angle. Almost like musique concrete folding in on itself, the original material sheds its referentiality as this world of pure sound mixes concretion and abstraction to a degree where both can no longer be clearly distinguished. This is a completely logical consequence of Calarco's experiment: In a world composed of nothing but sound, even the most striking consonances with the physical world are mere coincidences, after all. If this should make „Dársena Interna“'s equally ingenious and maddening narrative hard to follow at times, then that should seem only appropriate with its underlying philosophical outlook.