Francisco López – Untitled, Live at Cafe Oto (#2) (World Première)

Francisco López - Untitled, Live at Cafe Oto (#2) (World Première)

Francisco López‘s second live performance at Cafe Oto, in March 2015, makes a strong contrast to the first (featured earlier this month); where that had harnessed electronic elements largely devoid of referential qualities, this piece focuses on a juxtaposition of sounds that are clearly derived from (or intended to imitate) field recordings.

The opening minutes are entirely granular, a texture made up of an increasing density of clicking, chittering insect sounds, complicated by one layer that projects something akin to purring. After around five minutes this has grown to the point that it seems obviously artificial – the layered result of a great many sounds – though always retaining the sense that every individual element is something authentically real. That artifice is subsequently reinforced by the first of what will become a characteristic series of abrupt cuts, replacing everything with the soft, humming buzz of bees, a light, tickling texture occasionally featuring the close-up buzz of an individual bee.

Another jump cut transports us to an interesting place where hovering bands of noise form the gentle backdrop to small, possibly electronic insect sounds. This is soon followed by another cut, into a world populated entirely by dry objects, bouncing around off a myriad surfaces (with more than a few echoes of Aphex Twin’s Bucephalus Bouncing Ball). This punchy environment very slowly becomes more generalised (though no less powerful) as the force of the impacts is pulled back, until all that remains are a few creaking squeaks. More cuts propel us first into the middle of a pig sty, then to a firework display.

This marks a turning point in the performance, as López adds to the fireworks a mixture of both evocative and abstract elements, conjuring up a crackling fire and what could be a number of pipes kicking out assorted pitch bands. This leads to another example of what was the primary characteristic of his first performance, a texture comprising various diverse elements but where nothing predominates. We’ve moved far away from obvious field recordings, immersed within vague patter, clunk, noise and a gentle but driving pulse. There’s a crescendo, then nothing at all, and finally the possibility of people slowly fades into view, eventually filling our ears.

The final jump cut takes us to a call and response between a man and a group of children. On the one hand, it’s a strange moment, partly because it comes after such an abstract sequence, partly because the sound of people have been hitherto absent, partly because it persists for so long in an evidently completely untouched or unfiltered way. On the other hand, it works to diffuse the preceding narrative tension, throwing us back to the world of openly evocative sounds, and continuing the basic approach that permeates this entire piece: a whistle-stop tour through diverse, disjunct sonic habitats.