Review: Federico Durand & Albarrán Cabrera – Pequeñas Melodías (IIKKI, Nov 8)

The Portuguese title of Federico Durand’s new album, Pequeñas Melodías, translates in English to “Little Melodies.” I couldn’t think of a better name for this collection of soft music box twinkles and synthesizer drones, muffled and broken by the decaying tapes onto which they were recorded and manipulated. The opening pair of tracks introduce cascades of flickering tape loops, portraying a powerful sense of nostalgia and dusty beauty yet entirely avoiding cutesy-ness, an easy trap to fall into when those distinctive toy-like plinks are used. “Las Estrellas Giran En El Pinar” brings guitar into the mix, and “Los Juguetes De Minka Podhájská” draws unique emotions from its reliance on fragmented playback, with the stuffy melodies sometimes dropping out for as long as a second at a time. I should also mention that Pequeñas Melodías, along with all releases on the IIKKI imprint, is a collaboration with a visual artist, in this case photography team Albarrán Cabrera (Anna P. Cabrera & Angel Albarrán). Even before I had finished my first listen of the record I was skeptical about how these intangible, elusive feelings could be augmented or even matched by photographs, but that was before I actually saw what Cabrera and Albarrán had contributed (you can view a video preview of the photo book here). Their gorgeous shots are filled with rich darkness and film imperfections, evoking distant warmth in even the most nocturnal images. The accompaniments for the longest two tracks, “Racimos de Luz” and “La Tarde Ronda Por La Casa,” are breathtaking, and somehow handily complement Durand’s immaterial works.

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