Jeremy Keens, Ampersand Etcetera
The listening experience is comparable to looking through an artists sketch book
Again, a name that has crossed this path many times on Pax, Public Eyesore and many more usually as part of a duo, group or collection, now emerges with a solo album. And I must admit it is one of those strange hard-to-review beasts.
There are 30 tracks on the album, of which 20 are around three minutes and the rest about 1. There are only 8 with titles, and they fall into the longer category. On listening you realise what is distinct about them is that they have vocals – softly mumble-sung poems. The list of instruments is extensive, though guitar, piano and field recordings tend to be the most used.
If we consider the first sequence there is a whooshing scrabbly recording which could be in a tunnel, the first song over scribbling scrape bangs and rattles that sound like the inside of a piano, a rumbling cycle, more string improv (either guitar or piano) and then another song over strummed guitar.
The album continues in this way. There are short experiments with sound sources, some of which are identifiable and some not – a crackling futz, scraping high tone violin, various field recordings, voice going ahhaahhhaaa, strumming, drilling buzz with radio sounds, blown and tapped didgeridoo. Indeed there are notes at the Pax site indicating the source of each – I had got most, though the rattling in 12 was 'goatnails', the crackle futz in 7 was a jackplug, the strange metallic noises were a zither rod and so on. The solo accordion was lost in the 'microscopic recording' which turned it into a crackling pebble drop! While it is not a 'mystery sound' album, reading the sources does make sense of some things – though I can see why you would leave the information off the cover.
Then there are the longer tracks – two are extended site recordings with the goatnails. The songs (again lyrics are on site for some) are accompanied by varied ensembles – and the album is balanced here. The first two and last two have solo instruments – piano or guitar); third and sixth are over site recordings which move in and out of focus, include cars and birds, singing and talking. And the central two are multitracked – they have relatively complex combinations of crackling and sampled turntables, bells cymbals and drums, bowed deep toned from the bass – standing out quite distinctly.
What that leaves you with is a collection of mainly 'unformed' pieces – moments that Diaz-Infante has captured while bowing the body of his guitar, riding an SF MUNI bus, preparing a piano or fiddling with a jack. The selection and contraction of them then becomes a window onto a larger piece – we can imagine the minutes or hours on either side. Some have then been extended as the basis for the poem-songs but, other than the multitracked ones, the longer pieces are not preferenced.
The listening experience is comparable to looking through an artists sketch book, where images are complete yet in various stages of completion, and we have the immediate enjoyment in addition to the imagination of possibilities. And if an extended improv track/album asks us to consider the moment of its creation, here we have an extended series of moments – and while the length suggests they are ripe for random-play, they feel and look like they have been carefully placed.
In many ways this structure makes the album more approachable, as does the relaxed and restrained tone, without losing the immediacy and thought-provocation of the genre. One which I am sure will continue to reveal aspects over time.
Dolf Mulder, Vital Weekly
It's some of the most beautiful I've heard from Diaz-Infante.
Diaz-Infante adds two more releases to his corpus that gets infinite
proportions. His output is spread out on numerous labels like
Bottomfeeder, Evolving Ear, InstrumenTales, oTo,
pfMENTUM, Public Eyesore, Staalplaat, Seagull, Sweet Stuff Media, and
Zzaj. These two new releases are on his own Pax Recordings.
The solo one is the special one here. With accordion, acoustic
guitar, Chinese hand exercise balls, didgeridoo, drums, electric bass
guitar, field recordings, goatnails, mbira, piano, radio, singing
bowls, turntalbe, violin, vocals and zither rod, Diaz-Infante creates
his own intimate and peacefull little universe.
Murmuring day-dreamer Diaz sings his simple songs like somebody who
in a lost moment sings and plays for himself, thinking nobody is the
neighbourhood. Very relaxed music, not disturbed by the hectic world.
Because Diaz-Infante uses many different instruments and objects we
enjoy a varied sonic panorama. We hear environmental sounds, loops,
instruments out of tune, etc.
The result is a very personal music. Maybe that's why the cd has no
title. Ernesto Diaz-Infate says it all. It's some of the most
beautiful I've heard from Diaz-Infante.
RKF, Dead Angel
With this solo disc Ernesto proves once again to be a tone scientist of the high
On this disc, Ernesto unveils his sensitive singer-songwriter side in between long streches of weirdness. A pattern develops early on in the sequencing of the 30 tracks on this disc: he presents two to four short, avant samples of anti-structure and power-electronic sounds (whose titles are simply the track lengths), then follows with an actual song (minimalist as it may be; these compositions are the ones important enough to actually rate titles), with the result that eight actual songs are scattered across the disc, islands in a sea of wordless exercises in sound and experimental stylings. Some of those exercises are quite interesting indeed: track 12 (3:13) sounds like it's all field-recording drone, hypnotizing even with next to nothing going on, darkwave without the waves. The "songs" are a bit closer to recognizable tunes (well, sorta), with vaguely-discernable structures mostly swaddled in drone and accompanied by strange rhythms and sounds as Ernesto sings (sounding bizarrely like a cross between Tom Waits 'n Todd Trainer -- takes a bit of getting used to). What he's singing about i have no idea, but with song titles like "from Henry who just wrote," "cranking up its pathos," and "a ride to Cuba with Martin Sheen," i suspect it's fairly elliptical and opaque. With this solo disc Ernesto proves once again to be a tone scientist of the highest order, branching out in unexpected directions, working with unusual sounds, integrating electronics and acoustic instruments into his soundscapes and songs. He also has swell taste in hats. I'm not convinced this would be a good place to start if you haven't already grokked Ernesto's mighty (and mighty eccentric) anti-guitar mojo, but if you're already down with his deep-dish experimental groove, then you'll want to scope this out.
Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews
Ernesto Diaz-Infante has once again surprised me.
Ernesto Diaz-Infante has once again surprised me. This is a solo album, but much different from, let’s say, his piano solo albums from before. There is a division in Diaz-Infante’s output, between his ensemble CDs, where he collaborates intensely with fellow musicians (albeit at times by exchanging sound files over the web etcetera), and his solo productions, where he usually bores deep into the content of expression, bringing back a luminous transparency of urgencies from within.
Here he plays a number of instruments and sound sources, and I just wonder how it feels to have all these means of expression! I’m a bit envious, because I can only scream and bike and write…
The look of the CD – which, I admit, I have altered some (top of the page), superimposing two pages from the booklet – is quite minimal, sober, withheld.
You never know what to expect from Diaz-Infante, who seems to have a bottomless pit of ideas and creative whims at his immediate disposal. This CD has 30 tracks, of which 8 have titles:
- from Henry who just wrote 
- fate succeeds because it’s obvious 
- cranking up its pathos 
- a ride to Cuba with Martin Sheen 
- durability of the throwaway art gesture 
- of acceleration and enunciation 
- smoking cigarettes 
- (followed by) harsh criticism 
It could also be that the spirit of the titles carries over into the following tracks, coloring them with whatever content the titles may suggest… and I realize also that these named tracks are the ones with a line of text, vocals.
The beginning is permeated with gasoline fumes and the roadside tool shed smell of grease. I’ve been hitchhiking up and down that California cost line, and lived in Texas, so I know what I mean… I used to get up so early in the morning to bike to work at the Texas Highway Department outpost in Irving, or was it Grand Prairie… that they called me the Texas Dew Boy…
It’s a street scene, noises of engines, maybe some bird chirps blanked out by the noise… and it’s probably hot… as the Greyhound pulls out for Phoenix or El Paso…
The crossover into a manipulated sound environment is brisk, though, as closely miked micro events soar like grains of sand down a tilting sheet of corrugated iron in someone’s backyard, while Ernesto Diaz-Infante comes at you in a John Cage voice, trembling right up your face, almost too close for comfort, but this vocal meditation à la Empty Words, albeit with real words, has a curious sonic effect, stumbling along on the soaring backdrop, some piano strings being pulled in the process… an old boy of the farm grasping at some reality…
A grainy sheet is pulled over the terrain, cooking, boiling fiercely, soon to be relieved by a crisp piano preparedness from right out of the body of the instruments; some twanging, pulling exercises in good faith…
Softer strummings caressed by that close voice, riding the strings like a kid a rail, filter out any evil forces, purifying the content of mind, an armchair sit-down in a comfortable room of the 21st century, checking the horizon for candy and death… and it rolls smoothly along, in wordings perhaps decipherable, as buildings fall and suns rise…
There is no hurry, no haste in these guitar acoustics, which seem so natural as to be self-evident in the light of day, a talk to oneself in a free moment…, a pause in the gathering of provisions…
Contact-miked static of amplification equipment or hands-on phonographic cartridges again pay homage to the Cage man of utter freedom over there in his late days among the flowerpots of his Manhattan loft. Yes! I love and cherish this pre-occupied, absentminded fumbling with electric chords, like seeing someone in deep thoughts playing with a pen or picking his nose… as the planet revolves slowly around its axis and people maintain their right to suppress one another… and seen from afar, out in the solar system, Voyager turning its eyes back past Saturn towards that tiny sphere of ours, it’s clear that it’s not a case of goodness versus evil, but simply evil versus evil…
The mix of this CD is startling, but there are points of return, i.e. the few tracks – the ones with titles – that also carry the vocals of Diaz-Infante. These tracks, though miked so closely that the words feel like they’re emerging from inside your own mind, provide a sense of succession and a feeling of motion, linear motion, direction, through these bewildering circumstances; a strange reinforcement of an artistic idea, a philosophical statement, an intuitive formation of linguistics, of morphemes, sailing through the context like cabbalistic missiles, surrounded by the silence of tongues, the roar of ears… the crisscross of telegraph wires down in the planetary surface… circuits of an alien civilization that is ours…
Jingling hinges jive away, as the soaring feeling of atmospheres build a canopy of contemporary skies for us to be spaced-out in… and it’s like the Louvre, the intense feeling of a soaring space, a soap bubble of concrete and mosaics and layers of time, a suspension of unfathomable weights, architecture of the moment blasting at eternity with the silent wheezing of atomic jitter…
Droplets seem to fall through the breath of someone close, onto a tin surface, microscopically recorded to enhance the usually overlooked aspects of the audio of sounding objects, reminding me some of Sune Karlsson’s recordings of his own nostrils in the piece Respiroia on the CD Phonia Domestica; Investigations.
I might add the observation that Diaz-Infante has chosen not to let all these tracks inch over into one another seamlessly, which might have been expected. Instead he presents the sections completely individually, with a silent stretch in between.
Often in these tracks there is a soaring atmosphere, which is very important to the feeling of surface and of movement, and of a certain tangibility, like were you moving weightlessly in the air along a tin foil surface of an already digested bar of chocolate on a kitchen table (you’re a fly: musca domestica), with your sucking device, the proboscis, scanning the shiny irregularities below for sustenance… and the music on this CD is much of the time taken onto this somewhat unfamiliar layer of existence: a nano world at the brink of visibility, just where microscopes and magnifying glasses take over, in a vicinity where tea spoons and coffee cups cast giant shadows across our field of vision, and even a lump of sugar is a mighty Kaba… and at times you feel you’re actually riding the fingertip of someone who is touching the rim of a wine glass in a circular movement to make the glass sing, like Meredith Monk on the CD Lady of Late… and you look into the depths of the glass; a deep, transparent silo, when the glass starts to moan…
Sometimes Diaz-Infante just opens up an ambience to the listener; an opportunity to hear things, much like John Cage in his silent pieces, making the unsound sound, the worthless full of value, the residue climbing unto the throne, a beggars’ banquet of rejected or simply overlooked audio… like Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio studying the little scraps of paper and lost pieces of garbage paraphernalia in the gutter of a short stretch of a street in the south of France, writing a novel from the finds! Ah, I recall those hot summer days on the porch overlooking the back yard in middle Sweden in medio of the 1970s, listening to Om Kalsoum blasting Amal Hayati over the loudspeakers as I read that Le Clézio book! The feeling is here in Diaz-Infante’s sonic finds! He’s a dream collector; a gatherer of inconspicuous finds, an interpreter of gray matter, a hunter for the next Dalai Lama…
François Couture, All Music Guide
This is not a comfortable listen in any way, but it is a fascinating album, unco
Ernesto Diaz-Infante's previous solo album for Pax Recordings was Solus, released in March 2000. An instrumental piano album like its three older brothers, it gave no indication whatsoever as to what direction the man would soon take. In the next three years, he released tons of albums -- solo, live, and mail collaborations, from guitar duets to field recordings -- on tiny underground, D.I.Y. labels that are extremely hard to find. So for anyone who didn't keep a close record of his activities, this untitled CD is his first major solo work in three years. It brings in focus most of the music he has released in-between in a very elegant and convincing way. If the obscure tapes and CDRs served as a laboratory for this album, they were worth going through. The album consists of 30 tracks between one and three minutes in duration. They form a suite of pictures alternating between street recordings, solo guitar pieces, noise-based improvisations, and sound collages (turntables, radio, piano frame, various objects) and vocals/guitar "songs." The latter are actually lyrics whispered almost inaudibly, backed by repetitive strumming or quiet acoustic noises. These disparate elements, although presented separately, come together to paint a stark picture. Diaz-Infante's music is constantly soft-spoken, looking fragile but hitting hard on the unconscious. His slow and calculated moves turn into a ritual, not unlike Keiji Haino's performances, even though both artists approach intensity from opposite directions. This is not a comfortable listen in any way, but it is a fascinating album, uncompromising to the bone.