Pau Torres: Hostile
Testing Ground

On the somewhat misleadingly-titled Hostile, Spanish artist and former Le Diablo Marichi band member Pau Torres assembles evocative, electroacoustic soundscapes with meticulous care from field elements, digital noise, and musical fragments (piano, acoustic guitar, trumpet), some of which derive from acknowledged sources (Agustí Martínez, Josep Lluis Redondo, Un caddie renversé dans l´herve, etc.). No gaps separate the twelve pieces, resulting in a fifty-five-minute travelogue where the scenery constantly changes.

Some parts verge on the conventionally musical (the opening horn section of “Haunted Chuck” and the jazzy trumpet solo that emerges amidst rippling streams in “Booth”) while others opt for pure abstraction (the sub-lunar rumble of “Empty” and spectral nightmares of “Guantanamo Highway”). There's no shortage of abstract and de-contextualized sounds: “Climfon” builds its combustible mass from static, smears, and even a dial-up squawk, while industrial textures and bass shudders make their way into “M.” “Banjo Insult” embeds dissonant piano flourishes and dog barks within a texture-heavy mass of hum and crackle. After a muted trumpet opens the longest piece, the twelve-minute closer “Frank's,” in reflective mode, Torres adds churning noise and voices until a quiet stream of ghostly static and reverb subdues the piece into a becalmed drone state.

Torres' material is decidedly un-hostile, as he works an enormous amount of detail into his settings but never claustrophobically so. Sounds emerge unhurriedly and the resultant mass, no matter how dense, never turns overbearing. Recorded and produced in Toronto (there's even an immediately recognizable radio station snippet that surfaces in “Bob McDermont”) and Barcelona, Torres' Hostile embodies an exercise in controlled dynamics whose example others would do well to follow.

September 2007