Francisco López – Live In Auckland

Francisco López - Live In Auckland

CD, MonotypeRec., 2008
www.monotyperecords.com

The live album is a curious affair; in the case of most bands it is more of an excuse to cash in on a greatest hits package of favourite songs rather than an opportunity to capture the essence of some outstanding performance. With electronic music the live album seems even less of a worthwhile exercise, most of the music presented being largely identical to studio albums, as much of it must usually be pre-recorded. In this latter case the live album must be justified by the inclusion of previously unreleased material, and the more experimental and improvising artists are naturally the ones who can really make the most out of the format.
Francisco López is a (presumably) Spanish sound artist active for twenty-five years now, having released numerous albums every year, each one presumably containing unique works not found on other discs. “Live In Auckland” was recorded at the School of Creative and Performing Arts in New Zealand in 2004, the venue alone demonstrating the critical acclaim with which López is widely regarded, but the release remained under cover for the next three years. It’s now presented with a plain black sleeve with discreet grey text at the bottom, and all compositions are untitled, appearing on the disc as a single track but with long silences breaking up the concert. Audience sound is predictably absent, so the fact that this is live is not so apparent.
A gradually building and developing mixture of musique concrète and industrial dark ambient, the sounds here tread a typical fine line between engaging and alienating; in denser sections the atmospheres overwhelm the listener but in quieter, emptier moments the sparseness and plainness is somewhat aggravating. Incessant insect buzzing and the sounds of broken machinery being abused cause quite some discomfort, but are overlaid in such a way as to hold the attention. Distant crashes and low rumbles early on provide a pleasingly sombre listening experience, but later the frantic ticking of multiple clocks and motors irritates more than should be acceptable. This mechanical cacophony slowly grows to something of a crescendo, but never quite reaches the satisfying power of real noise, preferring to jar the nerves rather than engulf the senses. Fortunately the total output increases in depth and range, and unexpected developments occur as the proceedings head to a bleak and ominous conclusion. In conclusion, then, this is a worthwhile piece of sound art for the initiated, but perhaps a little too challenging/pretentious for the newcomer.

[6.5/10]

— Nathan Clemence