Review: Catriel Nievas – El Lago de los Seis Lugares (Isla Visión, Nov 25)

While I’m often told that my musical intake is above average, my equally above average amount of free time is nonetheless limited. I can’t listen to everything people send me, and regrettably I even sometimes turn off albums when they’ve barely begun because I can already tell I won’t like them. Unfair dismissiveness in the name of efficiency, a tale as old as time. This was almost what happened with Catriel Nievas’ newest solo release, which was brought to my attention via Tone Glow honcho Joshua Minsoo Kim’s top ten 2019 albums list (check it out, it’s a good one). The use of plucked guitar in ambient music is hardly ever something I enjoy, so right away I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about my opinion of El Lago de los Seis Lugares. For once in my life, however, I exercised some of that elusive virtue we sometimes call patience, and I’d recommend anyone who listens to this album do the same because it definitely pays off. The level of calm and therapeutic stillness that Nievas evokes here is astounding, and the intermittent interjections of guitar harmonics or delay-affected chords are a splendid addition that provide an important counterpoint to that wispy, peaceful atmosphere. The three untitled pieces are largely unconcerned with drastic dynamic progression; instead, they rise from silence to float languidly in midair as Nievas gradually adds delicate layers of found sound, effects, and other complementary ornamentation. El Lago de los Seis Lugares hardly reinvents the wheel when it comes to abstract ambient music, but I come to this sort of thing to be lulled, not amazed.