Live in Montreal
ot many albums you’ll purchase this year will come equipped with a blindfold. Seemingly proving that fact was the clerk at the record store where I found Francisco Lopez’s Live in Montreal: as he handed over the jewel case, he commented how cool it was that it came with an armband—as if the CD was by a gimmicky punk band. Regardless, with the inclusion of the blindfold, Lopez is striving to achieve the same thing he has always desired: a concentration on pure sound.
Naturally, this single track album begins with silence. Ever so slowly, a low hum enters the ether. It builds so patiently that the ear barely notices it until a sudden crash of what sounds like a cymbal enters at the 7:30 mark, altering the senses of the passing drone and awakening you out of the hypnotic trance that the sound has put over you. This is a succinct example of a method that appears over much of Live in Montreal: a subtle, slowly transforming drone spends several minutes accumulating as an abrupt shift in the sound suddenly interrupts its flow.
It is this predictable approach that seems to limit and restrict Lopez. Live in Montreal is an undeniably slight album, but the jarring disruptions that appear on this record mar its overall effect. It is the quiet, almost entirely subdued whispers of sound that seem to speak most loudly in terms of mood and atmosphere. When Lopez concentrates his energy on crafting the foreboding, ominous feeling that haunts this live album it is downright startling.
Still, if you’ve heard any of Lopez’s dozens of works before you know what to expect on Live in Montreal. Then again, even if you haven’t actually listened to his carefully crafted sound worlds before, you probably know what to expect as well. His music—and this album certainly is no exception—is always built on field recordings, both raw and processed. On Live in Montreal, Lopez sifts the overwhelming rush of a waterfall into his composition around 12:20 and places lightly blemished recordings of rain falling onto a tin roof as the track nears a half hour.
However, even when his sounds are obscured to a point where the source is unrecognizable—such as most of the low, sustained hisses that comprise much of the material on Live in Montreal—Lopez still seems to approximate the drone of an industrial plant or an engine. In the electro-acoustic world, Lopez has undoubtedly carved a niche for himself with this technique, but with Live in Montreal, his vision does not quite come into fruition like his best albums have.
Reviewed by: Ryan Potts
Reviewed on: 2005-11-30