On March 5th Bongo Joe Records dug out more buried treasure with LA OLA INTERIOR: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism 1983-1990. The album is 20 tracks full of possibility and hope. The artists, many of whom were unknown even in their home of Spain, were moved by Brian Eno and Jon Hassel’s Fourth World recording and emboldened by a newly free, post-Franco, society.
The album is essentially divided into two sections. The first is a group of artists who took advantage of the DIY mentality prevalent in the underground post-Franco music scene. They bought analogue equipment and recorded their sounds onto cassette tapes in their makeshift basement studios. These musicians, like Miguel A. Ruiz, Victor Nubla, and Esplendor Geométrico, brought a sense of play and curiosity that sounds like what opening up feels like. I can’t help but wonder how their experience of the world played into that. The second set of musicians, Javier Segura, Finis Africae, and Susa Saiz to name a few, were a bit more established and had more means than the first, but the sense of experimentalism and curiosity was just as prevalent. Tying them both together is the interest in the exotic. While travel may not have been possible for many of these musicians the stashing of exotic instruments was not uncommon, giving songs like “Vuelo por las Alturas de Xaue” with its soft flute and “Me Llena Cachimba” with its almost Sitar-like sound an intoxicating otherworldliness.
I’ve never been particularly drawn to ambient music, mostly because I need to move, I have a hard time sitting still and it always felt like “sit still” music. La Ola Interior is great because it’s a treat for people who already love its quiet, intelligent sound, but it’s also a perfect primer for people, like me, who haven’t spent much time with it. The sound is easy and gentle with just enough exotic intrigue to keep you present while you listen. I’m not much for meditation for all the reasons above but La Ola Interior made sitting still more of a journey than I expected. Not only because of the reverberating lasers of “Última instancia” but because of the creativity those lasers embodied.
La Ola Interior translates to “the inner wave” and while the musicians are attempting to journey throughout the world, they send us on a journey into ourselves, to experience that “inner wave”. While I was there, it made me think about all my wildest dreams and how those have been almost stolen from me because of the imaginary constraints this society places on all of us. I couldn’t stop thinking about what life must have been like in a world immediately after the death of a dictator and how life right now, in the states but certainly elsewhere, isn’t terribly different. Sure, our “dictator” didn’t die but now that he’s out of power, now that the world is on the brink of leaving its unexpected isolation, the music of La Ola Interior feels quite relatable. The impending openness and creativity that can flow when the curtains have been opened and the sun is allowed back in, or your fascist adjacent leader has been voted out, is palpable. People keep talking about going “back to normal” but what was so great about normal? We were overworked, underpaid and mostly shouldering the burden of life alone. Why would anyone want to go back to that? It can be hard to imagine something else after years of forced repression of creativity. By unearthing these cassette tapes, which were mostly unheard of until now, Bongo Joe gives us access to the mentality of the time and the artists. Maybe we can use their radical approach to music to re-configure our own world post-pandemic and post-(insert your own neo-fascist leader here). We have the chance to make it whatever we want it to be and there is hope in this oddly prescient compilation from 1980s Spain.