There has always been a nigh-on-unbreakable connection between nostalgia and music. A song can roll back the decades, and the debut album from Mexico City’s Carlos Morales, aka The Phonometrician, asks a connected question: what do memories sound like?
It may be subjective, but music connects us, and memories connect us, too. Morales, a multi-instrumentalist, film composer, and sound preservationist, builds a response through a finger-picked acoustic guitar, but strings are also present. In fact, Mnemosyne’s cellos are as old as the hiss that engulfs them. The mind cannot stay immaculate for long; it’s in a state of perpetual decline mere seconds after birth. As we look back through the dirtied glass of false recall, memories shift and change. As things are remembered differently, reality itself changes.
The Mandela Effect is one such example, where entire generations can remember one thing and believe it to be true when in reality the truth was miles away.
One can think something was subsequently altered or edited when in fact it was just a false memory. So, memories are unreliable, shaping events with rose-tinted glasses and making things out to be better, making events seem fonder, than they actually were at the time. As a film composer, Morales is experienced in dealing with specific moments in time and warping the music to fit a mood or a scene, not manipulating it as such, but using it as a kind of emotional magnet, guiding the audience towards a specific feeling. The classical guitar is engaged in a battle with subtle, but lurking, electronics, the pristine instrument becoming obscured by a darker approach, perhaps signalling the onset of dementia or some other affliction of the mind, or even the decline of classical music and the threat of experimental music. But Mnemosyne doesn’t want to play tricks on your mind. The guitar and the cello form uneasy companions – we’re not used to seeing the two together, and there’s an acidic contrast between light and shade. With titles such as ‘Chloe’ and ‘Lights Off’, Morales infuses his music with emotion. Although the names are there, as signposts and dedications, helping the music to see in the dark with the beaming headlight of a beloved’s name, the actual meaning behind the title remains a mystery. The listener is left to form their own imaginings, events, and episodes.
Of course, memories can be both a curse and a blessing depending on era, circumstance, and experience, either being a plague or lighting a smile. Mnemosyne shifts between the two, unsure of its side, and always on the cusp of slipping into permanent darkness. The guitar isn’t finished yet, though, and bullet-quick melodies slide off the fingers with accomplished ease. The uncomfortable sounds are still there, just below the surface, and that darkness gnaws away at things…you can’t shake it, and it’s almost a permanent thing, occurring and reoccurring again and again. The mortal mind went from a glistening palace to a decrepit mausoleum. Voices whisper in and around the vaults of the mind, slowly unlocking something. Shades of bvdub or OKADA are there when the vocal emerges, but it’s darker than both, and pine-fresh. The driving rhythm and the pastoral, looping melody of closer ‘Poppy Meadows’ ends the album on an appreciative feeling, and it also echoes something of Americana.
Memories are as unique as fingerprints, but even with the personal nature, Morales is able to feed something of their essence into his guitar…searching the inner motherboard for a specific moment – sunny, yes, but sunshine of long ago, and the darkness isn’t so much malevolent as it is melancholic, longing for a return that can never happen. Perhaps that’s where the darkness came from. Whatever it is or whatever its origin, Mnemosyne lingers long in the memory.