Review: Rodrigo Ambriz – Una silueta se precipita en arcadas (Szara Reneta, Sep 15)

Despite being arguably the most personal and innate instrument, the human voice is hard to master — and it’s even more difficult to surpass mastery, and venture into uncovered, original musical territory. Rodrigo Ambriz is an improviser whose control over his voice is astonishing. He uses it to create drones and form surreal clouds of nonsense verbalization, gagging and contorting his mouth in almost horrifying ways. On Una silueta se precipita en arcadas, Ambriz also makes use of auxiliary devices, like tape machines and miscellaneous electronics, to extend these unfamiliar timbres even further. In this regard he is not dissimilar from other, equally masterful abstract vocalizers (Yoshida, Junko, etc), but Ambriz’s approach is uniquely aggressive and passionate, much more focused on visceral assault and clashing textures. His ragged breaths are the listener’s only repose, especially on seemingly effect-less pieces like opener “Trayecto subterráneo. Espejos, dientes, sedimento.” At other times, he layers and builds loops for more patient progressions; “Páramo agreste, área exclusiva para digresiones fatigosas” is like a restless pit of unspeakable monsters, struggling and fighting each other to escape, until the whole thing eventually boils over. And “Despojado al fin por su propio soplo,” probably my favorite cut, initially sounds like a kid making sound effects while playing with action figures…but then you begin to realize how sinister and violent it sounds, like Ambriz isn’t just imitating the sound of some horrific scene but instead it’s being played through him, like a speaker or something. Needless to say, Una silueta se precipita en arcadas is a wild ride. I once read someone say that after listening to Derek Bailey the guitar becomes “an incredible alien artifact of immense power.” Similarly, after Ambriz, I’m looking at my vocal cords in a very different way.