Federico Durand – Música para Manuel (Hibernate Recordings, 2015)


“Music For Manuel” is Argentinian musician Federico Durand’s gift to the grandfather that raised him as a child. Originally released on cassette and comprised of only two tracks (I believe the first two tracks of the album) and now rereleased and expanded on Hibernate Recordings, Música para Manuel is just about every bit as quietly nostalgic and thankful a collection of musical works as you’d expect it to be, but also not without its sadness and wist. Filled with tape loops, soft field recordings and smeared piano and guitar movements, Durand’s touching 40 minute exploration is a creeping emotional journey that will touch every listener.

The first two pieces are the longest, at almost 14 minutes apiece, and appear to be the original works from the first version of this release. “I”, the opener, is filled with nothing but slow drifts of impeccably measured piano strokes, their soft notations floating out of the tangible and almost physical silence in which they are suspended, like little moments drifting out of old woodwork as we run our fingers across its scratched and used surface or moments in time captured in the laughter lines of a recognisable face. It has a heaviness and weariness that seems anxious of the future, of losing the source of those precious moments and holding them in reverie as a result. “II” is its lighter counterpart, however, unfolding on refreshingly innocent and nostalgic chimings of a toybox tinkling out from the grainy fuzz in which it is ensconced, like old cine film flashing on a projector and displaying those long passed but still cherished moments of childhood naivety on the screen, its blearily placid motions supplemented by tentative guitar pluckings, handling these old memories with care.

“III” descends even deeper into the fugues of time, delving into a dusty and distant piano loop on the edge of being recognisable, turning over hauntingly, endlessly, each end of its loop pausing briefly to lock back into place and repeat its melancholic passage, its insistence and cool presence akin to the essential repetitions of a life support machine as though heard through some emotional filter. Every loop sounds so tired it could be its last, each turn heavy with anxiety and despondency, each loop a physical effort; it really packs a great deal into only a few minutes of melancholic sound. The remaining tracks are a little less darkly morose; “IV” is the clearest piece by far as it fills its walls with the chiming and jangling of bells, wind chimes and xylophones, its twangling air filled with the warm chirruping of insects of Mediterranean (or I suppose South American) quality, like a hundred stargazing nights compressed into one fond expression. Closer “V” also sees some sense of acceptance and thankfulness in its fond cassette fuzz glow and thinly spun drones wafting along with the warped movements of yet another old piano, the track seeing in the dawn with a pleasant and warm attitude after its night of cathartic introspections.

While the first track is (to me) a somewhat weak and unassuming start to this record, the other tracks, especially II and III, really provide a meaty and deeply emotional core that makes the remainder an interesting and challenging experience that looks at the past, into the future, and within before resolving its anxieties and coming to terms with the inevitable, thankful and pleased with what its been granted for the time it had it. It’s a loving album that seeks to remind us of why it is we fear loss and how important it is to thank those individuals who have played such striking roles in our lives, and to honour the memory of those persons.