Joao Castro Pinto - The No Land Soundscape [Hemisphärenonkukyo. - 2020]Today's review is of a new album by Joao Castro Pinto, entitled The No Land Soundscape on Australian label Hemisphärenonkukyo.. The release is 33 minutes of “composed” field recordings (ala Thomas Tilly and Francisco Lopez) and according to the liner notes, is made up of 20+ years of various field recordings from a variety of different locations.
As someone who has listened to a tonne of this sort of work (but doesn’t particularly make it themselves) I think I have a pretty good idea of what I like/dislike in good field recording work and this album and in terms of the scope of what Jaoas tried to do here and how flawlessly its been executed this album is just unreal.
The album seems to try and a really difficult thing- blend grittier lo-fi textures with extremely polished and well-documented textures. The sheer meticulousness of this is crazy. It made me think of sitting at a cafe where half the patrons seem to be made of static or low res versions of people.
On top of that, you have all the little humming whizzing processed bits, in my mind, the processing is most effective when it doesn’t necessarily leap out at you, but your ear can tell that something that happened just doesn't feel particularly, right.
One thought that occurred when I listened to it is, the sounds presented have a really diverse range of emotions/feelings they can conjure, there are playful fairground sounds, mournful choirs, neutral little whizzing sounds, and settings. Every scene though feels like it has a strong understanding of the probable emotional reaction they could conjure.
Also, this is purely personal preference but when I’m presented with these field recording albums, usually I really want some concept of intention and musicality (as opposed to just documenting a setting as it occurred). If you think of amateur doubles by Graham Lambkin with that song playing in the car while he drives his kids. That's what I vibe with the hardest and This album delivers on that really strongly, the choir stuff being obvious but all the other little rural-y sounds seem to have a musical quality to them.
With a running length of 33 minutes, one issue you could definitely run into on an album like this is presenting such a broad variety of textures in a short amount of time (as opposed to more singular releases like Tarab’s housekeeping or all the raw Daniel Menche recordings). Which really speaks to the strength of this release. It never feels like it jumps awkwardly and it never seems to be rushing its task at hand.
All in all, this has been of my favorite listens of the year so far. Hi-fi, lo-fi, raw and processed, all work together to make a truly musical and utterly well-crafted album. Any fans of Joao’s previous work or any fans of field recording stuff are likely to get something out of it.A. Cooley