MYSTERY SEA 52| Juan
José Calarco| [Dársena Interna]
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"
José Calarco, August
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...
Interna" is breathing backgrounds,
a draught in a remote tunnel,
damp walls & channels...
a nocturnal diary of omnipresent
clinkings, dilutions, & scraped stones...
a thin layer of dust &
trembling pools & blurred reflections...
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
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.
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.
WIRE #306 - Outer Limits|Jim
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.
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.
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
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.
The story needs to be told in full: Calarco
has incorporated his entire view of the world into his first physical
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