Cristián Alvear and Santiago Astaburuaga – capas de un tapiz

Cristián Alvear and Santiago Astaburuaga - capas de un tapiz, closeup of a woven basket, image by Tatiana Wolf.

For their new album “capas de un tapiz” (“layers of a tapestry”), Cristián Alvear and Santiago Astaburuaga present interpretations of pieces by Rolando Hernández and Nicolás Carrasco for guitars, transducers, small amplifiers, and recordings. Hernández’s piece, ‘topializ’, opens with plucked guitar repeated in a regular rhythm, instantly recognisable as an ‘Alvear’ refrain — but this is about as ‘normal’ as things get, with the sounds quickly turning towards the abstract and unidentifiable. Muffled clunks beat out of time with the guitar; a squeal, like a pinched balloon only more screechier, pierces the ears; a telephone dialling tone beeps over various sawings, buzzings, and hissings. From a photo of the duo at work, I’m led to believe that many of the sounds come from an acoustic guitar and an electric bass guitar, but apart from the opening couple of minutes it’s pretty much impossible to recognise them as such.

Carrasco’s ‘sin título #21’ continues in a similar vein, beginning with a series of abstract sounds separated by pauses. Chinks, buzzes, hisses, tapping: everything is sudden and brief, except for a low sustained rumble. Later on, an abrasive burning, like the sound of a Bunsen burner, grows louder and louder, becoming a roaring furnace before gradually fading away. A metronome ticks, as small, hard objects clatter to the floor and chords are played on an out-of-tune guitar. The first metronome is joined by a second; a resonant chord and quiet metallic screeching are sustained while more clatters, rumbles, guitar chords, and ticks come and go.

The sounds of “capas de un tapiz” generally aren’t that attractive, nor are they particularly novel in a corner of the musical world that is full of ambiguous rumbles, buzzes, and hisses. However, they are arranged and performed with deftness, with Alvear and Astaburuaga knowing exactly how long to play them for while keeping the listener guessing. There’s also a wicked humour to this music, evident in the whistling squeals, farting buzzes, and duelling metronomes. If you’re looking for mystical transcendence, you probably won’t find it here — but to overlook “capas de un tapiz” on such grounds would be to miss out on a lot of fun.

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Cristián Alvear

Marginal Frequency

Image by Tatiana Wolf

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