Arturo Parra (A)cousmatique Review

Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Electroacoustic pieces from Colombian guitarist in collaboration with Frances Dhomont,...

Nick Reynolds 2003

A man is playing acoustic guitar. He is disturbed by an insect. It gets trapped inside his guitar. Some of the time he tries to shake it out, sometimes he makes his playing fit with the insect's buzzing.

Guitarist Arturo Parra originally comes from Colombia, so it's hardly surprising that there's a strong Latin flavour to his style. He's now based in Canada, regularly collaborating with electroacoustic composers, people who make sound sculptures out of electronic noise.

This CD brings together five such pieces. Arturo weaves his guitar through bass drones, occasional surges and waves of noise, sinister echo effects, low level rumbles, creaks and plops. He's an accomplished player, and combines fluid runs and riffs with the occasional bit of fret board abuse and scrabbling. On "La basilique Fantome" he syncopates his music with the rythmn of a hand saw. At one point in "Soledad" he battles with a malevolent washing machine in a wind tunnel.

I'd be a bit more impressed if he had improvised his parts live on hearing these pieces for the very first time. But the sleeve implies that he listened to them a great deal before writing his sections.This does contribute to the feeling that sometimes this is a bit of an academic, slightly bloodless exercise. It's almost too considered and thought out in places. Occasionally you long for Parra to go for it and really wig out. The flimsy, irritating cardboard sleeve and rather pretentious sleeve notes don't help.

The closing piece "Lenvers du temps" which starts with a creaky door that turns into a mechanical guillotine, is slick and almost lyrical. Indeed, compared to a lot of the sounds you'll find under the experimental banner this CD could almost be classified as easy listening. So, if your idea of easy listening is a guitar jamming with a mutant cross between a fire alarm and a fax machine, look no further...

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