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Francisco Lopez, "Amarok"

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cover image Lopez’ music has a way of getting under my skin, in the same way the faint whine from fluorescent lights and computer screens in an office or the background hum of refrigerators and appliances at home do. While listening to Amarok it becomes part of the environment and the mind filters out its steady subliminal assault. At times I almost forgot I had an album playing, but then the pressure either built up with noise reasserting itself, or it halted abruptly at which times I felt an immediate sense of ease and relaxation. These moments don’t last though and the underlying anxiety (both frigid and animalistic) inevitably returns.

 

Glacial Movements

Although one continuous work, there are clear movements or sections within Amarok. The first is like a slow wind that gradually builds up into a gale of near white noise with a driving pulse of low-end macerating beneath. The storm of sounds disperses abruptly before descending back into an icy oblivion where it meanders around for a while longer.

For me, the high point of the 64 minute soundscape comes early on, in what I hear as a second movement to the work, starting around the 16 minute mark. It also places the recording in the context of its given name: Amarok is a monstrous wolf in Inuit mythology that tracks down and devours anyone who is foolish enough to hunt alone at night. I can hear the bestial snarls of this creature—compoundeded from what manner of source material I know not—as it tramples through snowy arctic wastes. At first it sounds like chains being drug across the ice, or the heavy chug of an ocean liner. Whatever the original field recordings were of, they quickly transform into vaporous snarls. The bestial growls of terror become slightly more defined while leaving plenty of room for my imagination to fill in the gaps.

The long remainder of the album is not as blatantly horrific though it is unsettling. Recorded between 2007-2009 and evocative of desolate isolation, Lopez claims it is the “spookiest work I’ve ever done.” It is easy to agree with him on this point, based on what else I’ve heard from this extremely prolific sound artist. He is clearly a master at creating soundtracks for inner cinema. Approaching the work as if I was at one of his concerts, blindfolded, I am able to pay proper attention to the minutiae of sound. As a cunning craftsman he is able to shape it to precise effect.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 14 March 2010 15:22  


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