U25 | Manrico Montero | Sisal
2. Litoral Nor-Poniente : excerpt
4. Cuarto Manglar : excerpt
format : CD ltd to 200 hand numbered copies
all copies come with an additional art card on 300gr satin paper
release year : 2015
length : 53’40
1. Primer Manglar
2. Litoral Nor-Poniente
3. Mangle Negro
4. Cuarto Manglar
5. Mangle Rojo
6. Mangle Blanco
status : still available
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: info :
My life in the Mangroves :
From 2008 to 2011 I was living for different periods of time in towns along the coast of Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, working on my research projects, and Sisal was one of these towns.
In the past Sisal was the most important port of Yucatan from 16th to early 20th century, but it was replaced with the arrival of the more modern Progreso port, and with the years it become gradually a fishing town.
With the increase of human activities near coast towns the extension of mangrove forests are strongly reduced every year.
This collection of mangrove recordings are dedicated to “La Hojarasca”, which is the ecological process of defoliation of the trees which contributes to the recycling of organic matter in this ecosystem.
“La Hojarasca” is in some sense the language of the mangroves, and we can testify the transformation of the whole ecosystem in every leaf falling.
(Manrico Montero, April 2015)
: reviews :
Location is integral to Manrico Montero’s Sisal, as it is with virtually all of the albums released on Unfathomless. Without it, there is still music, but the context and inspiration driving it is at least partially effaced. Sisal is both the common name for Agave sisalana, a species of agave cultivated for the fibers it yields, and the name of a small port town located in the Yucatán Peninsula, where said fibers play a significant role in the economy. But the album focuses on another species native to the region. With just one exception, each of its tracks are named for the mangrove trees that grow in a nearby area called La Bocana (“The Mouth”), where seawater meets the freshwater of a cenote. Montero’s recordings capture plenty of maritime activity around these trees, including the rocking of ship hulls, strong coastal winds, and a multitude of insect and animal life. They also expose sounds that are not ready-at-hand, that are a part of the place without appearing as such.
There is a temptation to connect field recordings with documentaries. It’s an impulse compelled by the sense that field recordings are uncon-trived compared to conventional music, which requires instrumentation and a high degree of human intervention. But documenting and repeating the sounds of nature requires just as much mediation as does strumming a guitar or playing a keyboard. For one thing, Montero’s subjects are precise. He consciously hides as much as he reveals. For another, though he tries to mask it in different ways, his subjects are edited together and presented not as an unaltered image of a place, but as a carefully constructed simulacrum of it.
Montero’s concern is not fidelity, it’s evocation and correspondence. These are the places he wanted to represent in the way he wanted to represent them. There is an aesthetic of the hidden in his work, evi-denced in the above-water and below-water soundscapes found on “Litoral Nor-Poniente” and “Cuarto Manglar,” and there is also an emphasis on the pleasure of listening: to the movement of water and to the life that thrives around it. Even if the specifics are foreign, there will be something familiar about these vignettes—maybe in the rise and fall of chirping crickets or maybe in the patter of rain on glass and the crack of distant thunder. What is far away is drawn closer and that closeness registers as a kind of geographic harmony. The apparently foreign in fact shares a common root.
On “Mangle Negro,” Montero pairs heavy winds and rain with something that sounds like the child of a creaky floorboard and a party balloon. Someone moves about the scene as the storm gains strength and blows through the leaves outside, but their activity ultimately merges with the aeolian din. There is no way of knowing whether it all happened in real time or whether Montero slapped two recordings together and care-fully disguised the seams. Either way, a continuity beyond the documen-tary emerges because the flow of time and the necessity of proximity are eliminated. Listening to the echoes and percussive spikes on “Cuarto Manglar,” the continuity from man to machine to nature is rendered with a kind of minimal clarity, even as the activity of the music remains mysterious.
Sisal is a harbor-based field recording that acts on at least three levels: as a reflection of real-life sounds, as a window into the community, and as an early requiem for a changing area. According to Manrico Montero, Sisal was once the primary port of the Yucatan peninsula, but has since grown into a fishing town. These recordings were made among the mangroves, whose numbers are threatened by an increasing human presence.
As a field recording, the 53-minute set is pristine, focusing on the sounds of water, insects, birds and the hulls of boats. It seems as if the town has been deserted, left to claim its own, as in The World Without Us. This creates a sense of privacy, as the listener feels privileged to encounter nature without human interruption. The irony, of course, is that both the listener and the artist are human, and the latter is part of the recorded environment. Still, there are many times in which the belief is suspended; a bird squawks at the beginning of “Litoral Nor-Poniente”, a dog barks, the waves lap at the hull and the forest comes to life. In short, Montero must have left his microphones alone or have been very, very still.
As a window into the community, the set produces a feeling of muted awe; muted, because it’s unclear whether these sounds are appreciated by those who encounter them on a daily basis. It’s easy to go about one’s work and to miss the aural surroundings. Sisal seems a placid location, if not unspoiled then at least non-urban; industry has not silenced the local fauna, and there are still locations in which one may experience the fullness of a downpour without hearing people dash about (“Mangle Negro” or “Black Mangrove”). There’s no doubt that the water will remain, even if the mangroves will not; human intervention may even spark further flooding.
And now to the sad part. A recent quote from Yucatan Living (accompanying the photo on the left) is related directly to Sisal : “For years, the mangroves in Progreso have served as little more than a dumping ground for everything from old bed springs to bags of regular garbage.” These sounds, these beautiful sounds, are endangered. Sure, one day they will be replaced by other sounds – sound itself is not in danger – but a field recording of drainage and trash sounds distinctly unappealing. Montero’s recording is only indirectly political, but it bears a somber message: listen with your heart and mind, not just your ears.
A Closer Listen
The name Manrico Montero seems new one to this reviewer and his website seems unavailable when writing this. Between 2009 and 2011 he recorded sounds in and around Sisal, Mexico. This is a Mexican harbour town, which is the port through which much of the fibres used to make rope are transported. Obviously it’s not an area I visited. Unlike the Parodi release this is much more a work of pure field recordings, although the cover indicates there is some form of composing in this material. Maybe this composing is merely selecting the pieces from larger sections, but more likely this is composition dealing with carefully editing various bits and pieces together. ‘Cuearto Manglar’ sounds like a trip in the harbour on a rusty boat, very close by, whereas ‘Mangle Negro’ is a look at the harbour from a more remote area, overlooking a wider part of the same space. There is a distinct difference between both pieces, although the subject seems the same. Other pieces focus more on the surrounding areas, and have bird and insect sounds; there seems to be very little human activity in these recordings, but I might be wrong (‘Mangle Blanco’ for instance seems to suggest otherwise). This is all together quite a diverse release of some great field recordings.
Frans de Waard