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Composiciones Nativas: The Peruvian Experimentalism of Arturo Pozo and Miguel Flores

Composiciones Nativas

Composiciones Nativas

Buh Records is an obscure experimental music label from a corner of the world which you don’t really hear from too often—at least I don’t. Based in Lima, Peru, this publisher has set on an ambitious journey to release not only contemporary works by musicians they support, but to revive classic, or should I say historically significant, records from the Peruvian experimental / electroacoustic scene.  It is with that said that we will be foregoing our rating system for both of these releases, as it feels disrespectful to attempt to rate something of such early importance.

Arturo Ruiz del Pozo – Composiciones Nativas (1978)

The first volume of Buh Records’ Sounds Essentials Collection is a gathering of electroacoustic compositions by Peruvian composer Arturo Ruiz del Pozo (and a bit more). Composiciones Nativas was recorded in the Electronic Music Studio of the Royal College of Music in London in the period between 1976 and 1978. It was a part of del Pozo’s graduating project. It was originally published on cassette in 1984 and listening to this on a digital format kind of makes me sad as it would have been great if this re-issue wasn’t only on a CD, but on at least a limited run of tapes as well—a notion to truly commemorate this purely analogue work that would have been realistic and reasonable with the rise of modern boutique tape labels.

Putting format snobbism aside, however, Composiciones Nativas is a very interesting musique concrète work. Pieces are far from following a homogeneous concept, building a thorough soundscape, or describing different chapters of a story. Instead we’re given an academic sonic research. Peruvian instruments have been put in a completely different context here. Actually, the use of that particular ‘breed’ of instrumentation is what glues the different parts of this record together. The album’s sounds have been processed with everything that technology in the late 70s allowed. Ruiz del Pozo treated the acoustically captured sound with every possible means that was at his disposal: looping, effecting (with tape echos and filters), stretching and shrinking the sound bits, and playing with rhythmic patterns and poly-rhythmics.

If the pieces from the original recording sound, as I said, like a scientific product or a curious experiment, then Composiciones Nativas carries with it the soul of an era in the development of electroacoustic music. There are three compositions that have been added to the original album—’Selvynas’, ‘D’, and ‘Kanon Expansivo’—which range from synthetic minimalism that has been drowned in field recordings, to chamber string music and even a modern jazz composition. These additional tracks are absolutely intriguing and show you the growth and multi-directional development of the composer. And even if I don’t really see them fitting the overall context of the album, they make for a nice bonus to get you more interested in Arturo Ruiz del Pozo’s works, if you haven’t heard of him before, as was my case.

Miguel Flores – Primitivo (1981)

Primitivo

Primitivo

Miguel Flores is another significant figure who, alongside Arturo Ruiz del Pozo and Manongo Mujica, shaped the Peruvian musical avant-garde of the 70s and 80s. Primitivo is an album that steps a bit further back from electroacoustic experimentalism, but does this by taking multiple paths from free jazz to folk, and guitar psychedelia. Originally a drummer who performed with various classical Peruvian bands among which were The Loop’s, Thee Image, and PAX, Flores shows himself through Primitivo to be both a composer and multi-instrumentalist. Each of the three pieces is extremely different from the others; they range widely in terms of being an essence, instrumentation, ideas, and even in length. I guess what makes them alike is the fact they are all very different.

The three pieces in this album were originally composed for a dance piece by choreographer Luciana Proaño. Recorded in the 80s, these works are now being published for the first time as a part of the Sounds Essentials Collection.

Primitivo takes you on a very long and intriguing journey. It’s a crazy ride, as the music jumps from what modern ambient listeners would describe as a ritual sound, to sparse passages, primitive jazz, classic Spanish guitar composition, electroacoustic collages in the background of the instrumentation, obscure effects and production, and even proto-psychedelic rock. The pieces and bits of music do not appear in a gentle, logical way; they chaotically jump from one to the other, building a bewildering and lively soundscape that should make the conscious listener curious about how Primitivo worked with the dance piece it was written for. It makes you wonder how the bodies reacted to the mellow classic guitar melodies in ‘Pachacuti’, or the saxophone screaming in ‘Iranpabanto’, just minutes after this very piece started as a ritualistic distortion and percussion-driven effort.

Check out the release page for the full album on Bandcamp, where you’ll be able to discover a lot more about the concept behind both of these pieces as well as the Sounds Essentials Collection itself. There’s nothing else that I can or would say about these releases; everything has been laid out for you to either listen and read. Instead of digging through the ashes of these amazing and somehow ancient works, I recommend simply trying to experience them. Even if they’re not completely your proverbial cup of tea, they weren’t mine either. But looking at them through the eyes of all that music has gone through after they were created really helps you find your way through them, and perhaps find a little more appreciation for other aspects of life as well.

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Track List:

Composiciones Nativas:
01) Parantara
02) Lago de Totoras
03) Clarinete Cajamarquino
04) Tarka en brujas
05) Estudio para quenas
06) Despegue
07) Selvynas
08) D
09) Kanon Expansivo

Label: Buh Records (Peru) / BR066 / CD, Digital
Electroacoustic / Experimental / Musique Concrete

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Primitivo:
01) Pachacuti
02) Iranpabanto
03) Taki Onqoy

Written by: Angel S.
Label: Buh Records (Peru) / BR068 / CD, Digital
Avant-garde / Experimental / Electroacoustic