Francisco Meirino’s 2009 release is all about the sounds music machines make when they’re failing–minidisc players, P.A. systems, cassette recorders, and so forth. And very interesting and musical sounds they do make, to be sure. But it’s not just a lot of nice sounds that makes this album so rewarding to listen to. It’s the keen ear and musical intelligence of Francisco Meirino creating complex, cunningly layered tracks, some only seconds long but still carefully and lovingly crafted. Or are they? The phrase makes you wonder: opportunities for mistakes. Is that about the failing machines, or is that about being open as a composer for the unexpected or the unplanned? Either way, the results, for us, are nothing but delightful.
Track one is called Stress recording of distress. After some loud, high frequency bursts, it settles down to a complex wall of grit and static, with a subtle throbbing underneath it all. Various high pitched, pulsing electronic hums come in, to the front and middle of the sound stage. (The recordings are all crystal clear and the axes of height and depth come across very well, even on a modest home system.)
This is followed by the very short (22 seconds) Minidisc failure, which is hiss, loud clanks, hiss, very loud, high shrieks.
Highspeed pulse deterioration is a very rich, dense piece–and “dense” is probably a misnomer, as every “line” is so clean and distinct. There’s a lot going on in this piece is all. After a fairly steady (complex but regular) state is achieved, there are added all sorts of asynchronous other bits, some of which are close enough to machine-like regularity (without actually being regular) to be really disorienting.
Track four, The death of a P.A., is also quite short, and also quite sweet. A very loud opening followed by a soft, thumping section with some metallic ringing sounds. It sounds, I assure you, much more beautiful than that bare description.
The sound of failure is a mix of acoustic and electronic mechanical sounds. This, again, is more interesting to listen to than it may sound from that description, if only because the line between acoustic and electronic here is rarely distinct. In fact, were I to find that it’s all electronic, I wouldn’t be surprised. The steady whir and clank of machine sounds, in any event, makes a nice background to the more randomly distributed creaks and chirps. Added to that are some other regular repetitive sounds going on at different speeds. The piece builds very slowly to an excruciating climax.
The title track, Connections, establishes two continuous lines, one very high and one very low. Other little sounds come and go until a loud buzz appears, swells louder, and fades away. After that, the other sounds are not so little any more, more prominent and more persistent. A sudden sharp sound ends the piece.
The last two tracks, Broken cassette recorder and Alternate attempt of ending, are, like tracks two and four, very short. They are also, like two and four, very sweet as well. Not that you’ll ever listen to this album track by track as I did to make this review. In fact, there’s an instruction on the back of the jewel case, right underneath the track listing: “Continuous playback recommended.” I recommend it too. I also recommend playing this CD over and over again. You won’t be sorry!
The clip consists of the end of track one, all of track two, and the beginning of track three.