Miguel Isaza – Uji (Eilean Recordings, 2014)

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As Autumn descends upon us here the days begin to get just a little bit colder, just a little bit more grey than they would otherwise. It’s been like that for most of the weekend and even if I had found the time to write this review up over the last few days I think I would have preferred to wait for a day like today, one where the last vestiges of the warm, blue skies are allowed out before the leaves turn and fall and the temperatures disappear. Miguel Isaza’s Uji hails from a more Mediterranean setting, it would seem, so it only makes sense that I match the weather and my feelings to its home.

This homely warmth is expressed in the lightweight opener of “El Monte Suspendido”, easing us in with the soft chirrups of birdsong and cicadas and crickets, the buzzing backdrop of any classical Mediterranean abode. Gentle xylophonic motions give it some progression through the twilight saunter, our suspended mountain blotting out the stars ahead of us. This idea of the dreamscape is brought forth in “Suesos del Templo”, the temple of dreams. Field recordings and delicate pools of drone are the predictable mainstay of the piece, supplemented by thin electronic scratchings and distant clatterings, shadows tidying and reorganising things around us as we sit and watch the lights shimmer and twinkle in the dark founts, piercing synth lines scything through the darkness.

Many of the natural and homely sounds that Uji evokes are somehow made to feel unfamiliar and even creepy in each of the unfolding, mysterious pieces that it is populated by. “Canto Para Una Nube” creaks and shuffles ominously, electronica also twisted into artificial shapes. It turns to the dark sky and attempts to leave the chaotic world behind it, reaching upwards in its barely moving drones and light glitch stutters, heavy and encumbered with the weight of life. It’s waiting for its sibling, “Trozos de la Luna” to creep through the thick wall of vapour that dominates the atmosphere, a glimpse of the watchful Moon hiding behind. The effect is rather transportative, focusing instead on very electronic and computerised sounds squeezed out of a technical space, forced to adhere to a more organic design in their sporadic and spontaneous muffled, warbled lurches out of the drone veil.

“Lamento Primaveral” is perhaps the most tantalisingly evolving piece of the record, slowly melting out of its hibernation as it awakes to slow footsteps and busy clatterings, life returning to its otherwise quiet and uncomplicated world. The local wildlife slowly wells up in a wave of energy too, growing in activity and energy as warmth floods the system and ekes out all the little creatures from their hidey-holes. Perhaps the onset of Spring is here, as the world of “Oda Al Diente De Le¢n” arrives, which is entirely untranslatable (and ode to Le¢n’s tooth??). Regardless, as the longest track it’s afforded plenty of growing room and makes the most of it, emerging from very sparse sounds into a world of thick accordion drones and playful birdsong, a growing wave of beauteous enthusiasm that takes shape in wistful, bright sequences before fading away.

The closing “No Nacido” or “Unborn” is a surprisingly dark track to close on, especially following the lightness of the preceding piece; guitar lines stumble through a new darkness erratically, even menacingly, with initial owl calls setting the scene for our nighttime excursion. Cold and sleek drones develop and rush through the mix, and with the soft clanking of chains form a sign of our inability to break free of a dark secret kept hidden through the Winter months and now laid bare. A cold wind whips through its final moments and plunges us back into a fugue as the album disappears.

Miguel’s Uji dreams of a world on the edge of life, sitting and waiting for the right conditions to appear before the initiation and reestablishment of new life can begin, but I have a suspicion that Miguel’s Mediterranean world filled with new life is not that of a seasonal transformation but one of insemination and the introduction of new human life into the world, a dream that probes our thoughts on the possibility, the viability, of raising a child in this world of ours. The dream sequence tells us much and more but at the end of it the child remains non-existent, only a sad possibility yet to become reality. A surprisingly dark listen once you’ve plumbed its depths, I feel.

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