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Factor Burzaco: II

Album Notes

As a setting for writer Marcelo Cohen's meta-texts, the music on Factor Burzaco's II is filled with unease, derived in part from the dark and dissonant electro-acoustic drones cropping up here and there, but also from the music's volatility, how it erupts in sudden bursts of noise and rhythm, even flirting with punky rock without ever quite breaking into a sweat. This Argentinian project is the brainchild of composer/orchestrator/producer Abel Gilbert, who plays no musical instrument here but employs 16 musicians to realize his musical vision, which occasionally (particularly late in the program on a track like "Straviko") seems like a 21st century update of Henry Cow circa Unrest. That touchstone of '70s art rock was essentially an instrumental endeavor, however, and here the dominant voice is in fact a voice -- that of vocalist Carolina Restuccia, who provides much of the album's appeal and even accessibility. On "What," her voice merges with drawn-out saxophone notes in a melding that suggests a cross between a sax and a Tuvan throat singer; the following "In Memoriam" features her multi-tracked, manipulated voice in harmonies that sound not quite alien and not quite human (repeating a mantra that translates as "Every direction is fake"). Over a rock backing, however (as in "Progressions"), she sings and shouts in a more conventional way, piercing but not shrill, a riot grrrl tempered by her presence in a gallery of contemporary art. (She also contrasts nicely with vocalist Pol González's alternately declamatory and operatic interjections.)

While listeners inclined toward the "rock" aspects of art rock might latch onto Restuccia's voice as a life raft floating through II's sea of conceptual experimentation, her vocal during "Guantanabu 3" (less tortuous than expected for a track whose politically charged title is a portmanteau of "Guantanemo" and "Abu Ghraib") is delayed until after most of the project's diverse instrumentation has been introduced in fragmented phrases over the album's most consistent groove, suggesting the flavor of Carbon 7/AltrOck Belgian-Brazilian outfit Finnegans Wake. Elsewhere, despite the presence of guitars, bass, drums, vibraphone, accordion, flutes, clarinet, bassoon, saxes, and electronics on the album as a whole, the instruments are often heard in small groupings -- varying from rock to drone to modern classical -- but rarely simultaneously, the intimacy of the ensembles helping to avoid sonic clutter or overkill. Still, the lyrics and packaging suggest an attempt to make a Very Important Statement about life and music-making in a digital world (from "In Memoriam": "Taught us/How to love artifice/And to burn random-access memory/Mishmash, crevice, prerecorded ending/Months do embalm experience/And you just keep quiet, you simulate your fury/To quiet, to furiate"), with results not particularly well suited to singalong choruses. Fans of Art Bears and Thinking Plague-styled lyrics will be engrossed by the English-language translations of the fantastical Marcelo Cohen's texts in the CD booklet, while for others, Abel Gilbert's music will stand quite well enough on its own. ~ Dave Lynch


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