Francisco Lopez - Untitled #180 (Alien8 Recordings CD)
"Untitled #180" is Francisco Lopez's fifth release on the Alien8 label, coming just under a year after after they put out "Live in Montreal". "Montreal" was the last Lopez album I heard before this one, so I'm not too sure what he's been up to in the meantime (though with his release schedule, I'm sure he was up to something). I also couldn't tell you if this album is the result of an in-the-works evolution or merely a one-off, but it certainly sounds different from the Lopez albums we're accustomed to hearing. The blurb on the Alien8 website describes this as his most humorous outing to date, with Lopez's sound culled from major Hollywood motion pictures (!). A few years ago Alien8 released "Untitled #104", Lopez's death metal album, so clearly he feels comfortable enough with them to step outside the confines of his usual massive organic soundscapes. And speaking of stepping outside the confines, this is Lopez's first release in the "Untitled" series to feature actual artwork (very minimal artwork, but nevertheless!) as opposed to a blank CD in a clear jewel case.
And the change is noticeable from the instant you push play. For one thing, it doesn't begin with a huge chunk of silence. No, instead there's a rush of sounds, blurring together and changing so fast it's impossible for your brain to latch onto any one of them for a reasonable amount of time. They sound mechanical, almost industrial, like a less harsh Merzbow album or James Plotkin's Atomsmasher project. It's hard to immediately identify the sound sources here because everything's moving so fast. Before you know it a long stretch of near-silence (ah ha!) interrupts the proceedings. It's either a supremely lo-fi EAI drone or I'm hearing things. But if you give it enough time, the sounds come racing back, this time much more identifiable. I could've sworn I heard Darth fucking Vader on a Francisco Lopez album. Basically it's like a million tiny supernova and/or Michael Bay explosions going off at once. Then more silence. And the album proceeds much in this fashion, flip-flopping back and forth from breakneck cut-ups to hushed tones and earthly rumbles. I think there's a strong air of John Cage and musique concrète here, but some of the scrapings and shatterings remind me of the present-day noise brought by Raven Strain or Damion Romero. Except for the odd snatches of rain here and there this is almost entirely removed from other Lopez works - ones which I would consider to be more "outdoors"-y while I'm pegging this one as a definite "indoors" disc, if you can dig it. The soundtrack to a thousand movies playing at once. It's a hard album to write about, just like seeing the man perform live is tough to discuss with friends afterwards. You can't bring up a favorite "part" but you just know the experience had an impact on you.
Whereas other albums by Francisco Lopez piled up the silence at the start, seemingly taking forever to unfold, this one disperses lengthy bouts of it throughout. It makes for a unique listening experience and once you get used to the format, you're practically cringing in anticipation for the next rush of robot swarms or lion's roars. The 45-minute track ends with a sustained break of silence, which is a bit of a bummer as I would've really liked to have seen (heard) Lopez push it all into the red and go out with a bang. Hey wait, isn't that how the album starts? I should play this backwards! Yes I think that's exactly what I'll try next...