Some albums get you nailed to your seat right from the start…you can’t stop listening until it ends, and barely move inbetween because you don’t want to miss anything.
This is exactly what happened to me when listening to “Tutuguri“, a new album from Chilean sound artist Felipe Otondo.
An important part of this spell came from the extreme clarity of the sound, especially in the opening track ‘Irama’, which ‘investigates distinctive rhythmic features of traditional gamelan music using the unique timbral explorations of contemporary electroacoustic music’.
After studying acoustics in Chile, Felipe Otondo moved to Denmark for post-graduate studies in sound perception, focusing on spatial sound and timbre perception.
In someone else’s hands, this could result in a somewhat academic approach – music that tells theories, not stories.
But Felipe Otondo manages to tell a clear story, and takes you along on a trip “from Buddha to Zapotec”.
From the four tracks on “Tutuguri“, the second track ‘Teocalli’ is an impressive example of contemporary program(me) music – or ‘narrative’ music:
‘Teocalli’ is inspired by Julio Cortázar’s short story ‘The Night Face Up’, in which ‘a man driving a motorbike is involved in an accident and ends up in the hospital. In the middle of his hazy fever, he dreams he is a fugitive trying to hide from the Aztec indians, who are active in their annual manhunt for the ritual human sacrifice. The short story alternates between the hazy environment of the hospital and the intense environment of the jungle and the sacrifice temple Teocalli.’
It is a haunting soundtrack, indeed: you don’t need any images to visualize it. In fact you probably don’t even need to know the background story, because it transcends in every single fragment.
‘Ciguri’ is based on sounds that are somewhat similar to ‘Irana’, also exploring different types of bell sounds. It ‘is structured as different states of intensity stemming from the ritual of the peyote.”
The bell sounds on the closing track, ‘Sarnath’, on the other hand, are based on field recordings from various Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India. After the sonic experience of a fever trip as well as a peyote ritual, these sounds slowly take you back into a more earthly, yet still meditative, state of mind.
It’s not hard to tell why this album is so very different from many others. It is not just the sound quality – although that definitely is a very important factor. But it’s also because Otondo manages to combine his own Chilean background with his in-depth knowledge of acoustic sound perception.
Even though this CD contains only sounds (no visuals or other multimedia performances), I would not dare to call this just ‘music’. Because it is an ‘experience’.
FELIPE OTONDO – IRAMA
[also on Spotify]