Gonzo ‘Ruído(s)’ LP (Discrepant) 5/5

The record cover of Ruído(s) is a collage of clashing vibrancy, itching film grain of postcard vistas, perspective-shifting scenery that is disorganised and bleeding, a drifting visual buffet. The record itself is very similar. A bit like bones tossed from a bag by a seer, the effect of this aural collage has a disorientating effect, and feels like it needs to be read by someone more in-tune or connected to make sense of it.

To pull myself back a little from the highfalutin blather of an “avant-garde” reviewer, Ruído(s) makes a great deal of my senses. Formed of field-recordings of landscape, people and of instrumentation, supported by a range of synthesised sounds, there is not so much a typical journey in the album, more of a pool to dip in. It clanks and grinds, soothes and loops. Is soporific yet wide-awake. It’s great fun and a little unnerving at times. I feel this is a body of vignettes that may well capture the sense of rural Portugal. I wouldn’t really know for sure as I have no frame of reference. Pitched as a “mixtape style tape” by the artist, there is something of the Heart of Darkness about this artifact. In that vein, I am led through the clicking, unhinged nature of the record to Dennis Hopper’s disturbed photojournalist in Apocalypse Now. “What are you gonna do when you go from here to Venus or something?” seems on the right cricket ground.

Ruído(s) is about both the macro and the micro. Wide sweeping tides and shores smooshed up against muttering lips. Taken as individual tracks they are interesting slices of experiment, observation and audio collage. Taken as an album, it felt more subtly hypnotic, lifting my brain-steak into an re-imagining of a real landscape. Like being told a bit of a disturbing holiday anecdote while you’re trying to get to sleep after too much booze. To analyse it too much is to miss the overall effect, even if you were mentally able to.

Despite this being much more musical in a traditional manner, there is a connected sensibility with pieces like Walter Ruttmann’s ground-breaking Weekend (Wochenende). Ruttmann’s discovery of the rhythms and melodies of life in urban Berlin in 1930 is devoid of any instrumentation in an overt way. Rather, it fizzles with the music of human life. Ruído(s) works in a similar sense, but blends and fuses the “musical” and the field-recorded worlds together. They overlap and engage at times, and at others reject and separate. I found this to be so rich, and rich in many different ways, that I can’t help but be curious enough for another listen. I’ve gone back to it several times now and there’s lots to focus on, but also lots to blur and smudge up and let wash over you.

I think hardcore fans of musique concrète may find this too laced with “traditional” musicality, whereas the fans of more accessible ambient, soundscape-y outfits (Stars of the Lid or Cinematic Orchestra, perhaps) may find the opposite. For me it sits in a fantastic sweet spot on this spectrum. It is also a joy to discover the other work by Gonzo, which has been a whole other set of odd trips down lanes I’d never travelled before. Rare and endangered.

Thomas Pooley-Tolkien-Sharpe