Fifth release from this increasingly influential Costa Rican Ambient musican Jose Acuna, Sol Levit.
Sol Levit is self confessed as being a release that challenges the spiritual and theistic theories and concepts, that is designed to propel us into a line of thought that questions our role as human beings on a personal level as well as a universal level, if that is at all possible. What is our purpose in life, why are we here, what is there after death? These are all vast questions that are incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to answer, but human nature demands that they do, and we wont stop until we’ve hit upon the truth.
Opener “Convenza” translates to “convince”, something of an appropriate title to kick off this conceptual ride don’t you think? We spend an incredible amount of time creating our own thoughts and theories that we just have to then publicise them. Swirling electronica surrounds a bed of thrumming drone, a delicate and thorough affair that encases one set of ideas within another, before a yawning expanse of rising synth cuts through the dark and oppressive surface layers, fragments of vocal noise escorting the shimmering light waves emanating from the core of the piece. It’s a voice of reason and harmony in a previously disharmonious and dark world. It quickly ushers in followup “Émori I” (it was stressed that this album has no breaks or pauses throughout), which follows in a similar vein of quivering background noise and syncopated electronic textures writhing on top of each other, cemented in place by that firm backing drone. It’s determined and driven and despite the voices of dissent and opposing opinion drives a hard line and continues forward on its own path, not to be dissuaded or convinced otherwise.
It dies away almost contentedly to move into the considerably darker initial sequences of “Qualia”, stemming from a philosophical concept in regards to subjective experiences. It’s every bit as confusing and as wracking as trying to describe a colour, or the sensation of pain or the perception of taste; violins escort the melody into melancholy, trusting our faith in that others share the same ability to feel what it is we feel, see what we see, empathise with our experiences. It’s the first of some of the really challengingly beautiful tracks of this album and it gives me goosebumps. Indeed, how can I describe it? It’s bold but hesitant, accurate in its own mind but unsure of the capacity for emotional transferal, rising in a growing crescendo of thought and internal debate as it mirrors these modern classical styles against electronic and ambient vistas. “Al Mismo Lugar” comes after, titled “the same place”. Again the melancholy is fraught here, musing on the nature of consciousness. How really alike are we all? How similar are the thoughts in everyone’s own unique heads? Clouds of drone obscure our ability to look into one another’s thoughts, the void that separates my brain matter from everyone else’s, the fundamental gap that prevents us from being in somebody else’s position. It’s almost sad that it’s unable to do so, cruising along in a wash of sympathetic drones and shining electronic notes before moving once more into the ever depressing sustained notes of the violin.
“Sacaret” arrives as we begin to plumb the mid-album, and the mood lightens somewhat. Swathes of vocal drone add an airiness that has yet to be heard from this album so far, and whilst there remain to be stutters and whispers of radio fragments in the backfield it feels safe in its opinion and once more committed to its favourable outlook for the future, pootling along in a state of almost blissful ignorance into “Émori II”. There was an album that was released earlier this year that covered a similar theme called Shadow Play and I didnt realise until I heard this track how far superior this album is in comparison, this is exactly what 36 should have produced. Its carefully chosen, escalating ambient oscillations grow like the tide, enveloping the senses in waves of perfectly convincing and self-assuring sound. There is something of a sense of resignation here though, but it’s something that I can’t quite place amidst the paralysing repetition. Absolutely stunning.
“Del Polvo” (“the dust”) ushers us quickly along, following the same theme as the previous track is it continues the repetitious nature as before but takes a more light-hearted approach, acceptant of its ultimate demise and welcoming of what follows thereafter, with its distal percussive slaps and thin drone at the fore, snippets of voice heard through the fog. The title track moves in seamlessly, deceptively, and the first half is possibly one of the best pieces of music I’ve heard this year. It grows jerkily, distal and processed piano carrying the track through initially but there is a stronger presence underneath that is beginning to develop ominously. A vast dark drone begins to take over, casting itself above the spinning synths hovering below, pushing itself to the fore and damn near overwhelming everything beneath. It’s enormous and intoxicating in its slow evolution but it slowly begins to modify itself and with the aid of the churning electronica is pushed in a more downtrodden direction as it switches up. But the halfway point of this 14 minute behemoth is reached and the fantastic drone is left at the wayside to be replaced by a thin and relatively insubstantial ambiance for its remainder, the sad pleasures of life replaced suddenly and abruptly by the pained absence of death. Lastly, finalé “Siete” rolls around and it’s time to wrap the album up, and there’s something almost lullaby-esque in the soothing, soaring drone, playful synth and staccato vocal pulses.
Sol Levit challenges our notions of consciousness, of life after death, of what it means to be alive, but ultimately does nothing more that consider us to muse these concepts. There’s no overriding agenda, no specific opinion that Jose is trying to impinge on us, more of an acceptance that everyone has their own way of thinking about things and dealing with this topic and leaving us to our own devices. As he so eloquently writes in the press release:
“It is unnecessary to express a spiritual experience in a sentence. Keep it to yourself”.
I feel like a lot of people could learn a little something from this album.