The first of two releases to come out soon on the Japanese label Flau (the other being Ensemble 0), Ulises Conti takes us on a cinematic journey of sweeping breadth and depth with “Los efímeros “. Sounding like a score from a movie filmed in the 1960’s (maybe even 1940’s – for some reason the Rank Films gong sequence comes to mind) “Los efímeros” is easily an album to get lost in.
“Los efímeros (The Ephemeral Ones) is the last album of the Argentinian Composer and Sound Artist Ulises Conti. This orchestral work divided in 10 small movements was recorded in 20188 in the auditorium of the Usina del Arte in Buenos Aires. This project with fifteen musicians in scene, whose chamber music reminiscences represents the most classical side of the composer, seems to be the answer to his previous works; among which after a long way of varied styles, goes from electronic music, IDM, Ambient and Field Recordings to solo piano pieces. Over the years, Ulises Conti has developed personal projects as the lecture performance, the soundwalks and concerts for an audience of one.; but also works in collaboration with more than fifty soundtracks for dance, films and theatre plays. Nevertheless, “Los efímeros” is his Neo-Classical statement; where it outlines his predilection for the French Horn, Harp, Viola and Bassoon.”
Typically I review track to track with my impressions of the individual tracks and instrumentation. But for this particular album, while I still am reviewing in this style, it should be noted that my impression of the album is one that is like one big interconnected work rather than a collection of individual pieces
“Obertura” opens the album with pensive strings and piano creating both tension, mood and feel that will weave its magic throughout the album. The brass instruments mentioned in the press release give the piece that particular feeling of a time gone by. The use of silence and pacing not only draws the listener in, but also helps in the musical cues to establish the feeling embedded in the music. While there a certain amount of darkness in this track, as we move onto “Preludio” strings and piano with an ever existing screech create a noirish piece that gently builds the suspense in the music by utilizing violin, cello, triangle and double bass. The pace is slow and deliberate which emphasises the sound qualities of the instruments and the way the contour the sound and emotions in the music.
As we move through the album “Virelay” initially brings forth a modern classical feel to the track with its sweeping and soaring strings, before Bassoon with its deep roar initiates a change in style for the track. The music balances between Modern Classical style and the retro/time gone by cinematic style that was established previously. The music just washes over you and you are transported to another place and time.”Lied” is the albums shortest track and maybe its most emotive. It appears to only consist of Bassoon and the way the instrument is played, its tone and pacing, it reminds me of music that is played at war memorials to commemorate the fallen.
“Interludio” has a gypsy, almost post rock feel largely generated by the various plucking string instruments, possibly cello, violin and double bass, or a combination of them all. Bassoon or a similar rich brass instrument brings forth the melodic lines with a hint of menace while the plucked strings give an ever-moving rhythm. “Divertimento” returns to the cinematic feel previously established with some whispered dialog alongside the ensemble with bassoon, cello and violin standing out. The noirish feel of the music is complimented with a certain amount of whimsically experimental instrumentation that stops the music from going too dark.
“Fantasía” like its name, sounds like a dark fairytale. The music draws you in to its meandering dark passages with a sense of something or someone lurking around out of sight. The pairing of strings and brass is effective in wringing out the emotion, suspense and dread as you continue to investigate the musical territory. The pounding of the bass drum acts as a signpost of something ominous nearby ahead. “Promenade” again relies on a single instrument much like “Lied” did, with my guess being the French Horn. The track also shares similar compositional styles, with this track leaning more into a melancholic narrative, almost as if there is a sense of loss.
“Impromptu” returns to full orchestration with an initial feeling of two different sections working almost in isolation. The string section casts long drones that intertwined, while the brass section wails intermittently together creating this uneasy feel that then leads through to section bathed in music of a time long gone, which is mainly characterized by the brass instruments. The track feels the most experimental of the album with its construction of relatively disparate sound sources. “Elegía”finishes the album off in grand style. Wringing out emotion from every instrument to create a slow, unwinding piece of beauty that is full of drones and strings that hang. We are back in the comfortable Modern Classical meets Cinematic pomp style of “Virelay” that Conti and his collaborators have executed so well. The track in its final minute ventures one last time in to experimental territory with a whirlwind of competing sounds that reach the inevitable climax.
This particular album is a pleasure for your ears and takes you back in time with its construction. While the music reminds me of times gone by, it is also timeless and fresh sounding. I am unfamiliar with Conti’s past music, but by the execution shown in the construction of this album, this large-scale cinematic and orchestral music suits him to a tee. Totally Recommended.