Red/Machinic Fantasies by Cecilia Lopez

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Cecilia Lopez | Red/Machinic Fantasies
XI Records (2xCD)

Out in the very last days of 2018, the two discs that make up this complex set of works in one package come from Argentinian composer and artist, Cecilia Lopez. Along with four additional musicians Red/Machinic Fantasies brings with it squeals, squeaks and a whole lot of dizzying unease right from the top of the twenty-two minutes of Red: Desastres civiles. The whole atmosphere swirls around as if in limbo, but they are only getting warmed up. The hyper intimacy may be coming from the play with contact microphones and speakers, every sound more emphasized by its own feedback loop. The dull-edged tones flare as the brass blows. Eventually these manipulated horns raise an alarm call, and we are seeking certain shelter – yet in the cacophony there is balance. One could easily imagine being in the belly of a small watercraft on rough seas.

  • Cecilia Lopez: Composition and electronics
  • Jean Carla Rodea & Julia Santoli: performers, spinners
  • Christopher McIntyre: trombone
  • Joe Moffett: trumpet

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Red comes a five parts and as Por elevación swoops in the tonal values subside as if being separated by signal. It’s a bright light arc of shape-shifting chords, almost theremin-like in nature but not as wobbly, yet playing on the low/high end variances. Something disconcerting lingers. The stunted PP is next, and offers some much needed pauses amid the tweaky industrialism vs. whistle-while-you-work nature here. A sudden chord, not unlike a rock guitarist about to wield an epic solo is hinted at, shifting into linear lumins that fade from earshot. The pitch is slightly unnerving, yet the exploratory impulses hold a certain comical slant, if you have ever enjoyed the work of Esquivel you may know what I mean.

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Larga distancia is more minimal on the front end, sounding like a strange apparatus that’s out of whack, and studio chairs being scraped along the floor, but likely it’s the sound between horns, knobs and wires rather than the in-situ live situation. They make cries and snores and all sorts of racket. Lopez has a very live sounding collective here, off the rails and ready to rumble. What makes this so arresting is its ability to pair convex and concave hard and soft sounds that both fill and siphon the air space with sweet noise. Lastly in this set is Sin Batería. The half-moon pitch swells perplexingly as tiny manipulations shake the tree just so. For these worn ears, they’ve reserved the most unique piece for its conclusion. It’s like a conversation between strange birds and jazz cats – someone is not going to make it out of here in one piece – chipping away until the last crumbs tumble.


Now on to disc two and Machinic Fantasies. This is a singular work developed, in part, as installation, runs at about seventy-three minutes in length. The piece employs two fifty-five gallon oil drums and acoustical filters and is the yin to the previous works’ yang. Far more hypnotic in nature, swirling in secrecy and sleep inducing in continuous repetition (at first). Lopez creates a haunting space with this timed pulsing quality that is unique and subtly numbing.

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There is something unmistakably familiar yet just out of reach in the living/breathing atmosphere created here, but it keeps harkening to the industrial age of gigantic steel factories while muscled masses are tirelessly working away the hours. But that’s not quite it, though visuals keep creeping in my mind, there’s far too many quiet spaces here where the gauge of time has elapsed into the slippery early morning hours. It’s amazing how Lopez is able to modify and manipulate objects so slightly and develop such an engaging curvature in tone. One could easily get lost in the swoon, howl and rapture of this ravishing masterpiece. The work swells softly and is ultimately reflective and otherwise metamorphic.

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