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Música Esporádica - Música Esporádica Music Album Reviews

A rediscovered gem from the prolific new age composer conjures the dreamy polyrhythms of Steve Reich to blissful and kinetic results. 

Unless you were a Steve Roach completist—an intimidating prospect, given his discography—you probably wouldn’t be familiar with the prolific new age composer’s ’90s collaborations with Spanish musician Suso Sáiz. Up until 2016, Sáiz’s music rarely landed outside his home country. But starting with the Amsterdam-based label Music from Memory’s handy introduction from that year, Odisea, Sáiz’s thoughtful work began to find new listeners. More music has followed, including a commissioned sound piece, a new album from earlier this year, and a retrospective of his new age band, Orquesta De Las Nubes. Each release showcases Sáiz’s contemplative nature as well as his openness as a collaborator, working with players ranging from Christian Fennesz to his own son.


Now comes the sterling sole release from the group Música Esporádica, Sáiz’s one-off with Nubes members María Villa and Pedro Estevan, Spanish guitarist Miguel Herrero, and American players Glen Velez and Layne Redmond. Esporádica is a bit of a “lost” album, but now it can take its place alongside rediscovered classics like Midori Takada’s Through the Looking Glass, Gigi Masin’s Wind, and Hiroshi Yoshimura’s Music for Nine Post Cards. For what by all accounts was a spontaneous gathering in a nearby studio in 1985, the music feels telepathic, the six players moving as one to create something that feels kinetic and blissful at once.

As the relatively concise six minutes of “I Forgot the Shirts” makes clear, the group often conjures the dreamy polyrhythms of Steve Reich. This is no coincidence; Velez was an integral member of the ’70s and ’80s ensembles propelling Reich’s formidable early run, including Music for 18 Musicians, Tehillim, and Sextet/Six Marimbas. Velez met Sáiz on tour with Reich, and they bonded over their shared fondness for non-Western music. Velez’s specialities include the Egyptian riq, the Irish bodhran, and the North African tar, and his website dubs him “Father of the Modern Frame Drum Movement.”

Which is great if you are in search of an ayahuasca shaman or Burning Man buddy. But all received skepticism evaporates the moment Velez’s hands hit the animal skin at the start of the 12-minute title track. You can emerge hypnotized even after a dozen listens and still not retain much sense of what transpired. The atmosphere feels charged, as glints of guitar, additional percussion, and wordless harmonizing arise, the players roving in and out of focus. Velez’s pulse remains steady and imparts perpetual motion to everything, a train engine that blurs the landscape just enough to smudge the lines of reality.

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“Meciendo El Engaño” is a similar length as “Música Esporádica,” but it moves more slowly. Sáiz takes the lead at the start, allowing his winding melody to swell upwards and fill the space. When Velez’s shakers emerge nearly three minutes in, the waters deepen imperceptibly. Instruments twinkle, voices turn into sirens, and everything turns hallucinatory.

If you skim through the album, many of the sounds here verge on “spa soundtrack,” but the group never falls back onto easy textures. Sáiz’s keyboard washes gather around those drums like storm clouds, at once massive, weightless, and dark. Velez’s frame drums are tribal, but each hit is made with intention, never just as an empty “world music” texture. Allow Música Esporádica to properly unfurl and it reveals itself to be immersive and celebratory, capturing an ecstatic meeting point between friends old and new.


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About Udara Madusanka

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