REVIEWS

Embassador Dulgoon –---- ––“Hydrorion Remnants"

(Psychic Sounds / Nonlocal Research, 2018)

Nonlocal Research are a Chilean collective who explore the intersection of pseudoscience and arcane ephemera.

Multi-instrumentalist Nicolás Carcavilla aka Embassador Dulgoon is a core member. Their website and social media accounts present a stream of found items – shells, diagrams of odd fauna displayed as thought brimming with undisclosed scientific or historic significance. 

 

Hydrorion Remnants is Embassador Dulgoon’s first solo release through Psychic Sounds label.

Opener “Triassic Persuasion” immediately embodies the aforementioned confluence; even in the name, there is the combination of textbook and pulp fiction, the scientific and the sensational. Xylophone and ominous drums roll above layers of tumultuous weather noise, while mysterious grunts poke through the shady undergrowth just out of reach. The presentation of field recordings in this fictional setting urges the mind to consider what imaginary form these creatures might take. So in the same way that cryptozoology is an overlap between scientific and the melodramatic, which lands somewhere between National Geographic and National Enquirer, this track and the whole album    combines reality with the fabricated to ensure sonic ambiguity.

The pieces demand and inquisitive ear, but also a more careful use of the term exotic. Like world music, which assumes a Western mainstream default, disregarding other factors like aesthetic characteristics, popularity, geographical location and language, is it fair to describe Carcavilla’s work as exotica? It could be argued that as a Chilean, he is reclaiming this term from the US/European perspective, severing from tiki connotations and the increasingly tedious clichés of library and lounge music. In any case, there is more to Hydrorion Remnants than a bunch of tropes. Considering the way he uses recordings throughout – particularly on “Sigillaria Spacecrofts” – the combination of tribal percussion and primary colored snippets of melody elevate it towards cryptozoological collage. The fact that Carcavilla ends the album with “Orkneyan Skerries” a scramble among the rocky islands of Scotland’s northern coast – finds the artist flipping the term exotic back at Western listeners. To him, the sound of exotica includes the seldom explored periphery of the Brittish landscape.

 

As the album approaches the halfway point, “Tabernacles Abandoned” introduces a slower, reverberant feel. Recalling the Baschet brothers, Francois and Bernard’s unsettling piece “Manège” – a most recognizable in the UK as the theme to Granada Television’s 1960s-70s program Picture Box –it is not sinister in quiet the same way. Rather, the reverberating chimes drift through the hinterland between receding shoreline and ominous forest, their oddness coming, again, from Carcavilla’s layering of squawks and growls beneath uncanny instrumental tones and irregular percussion. This constant fluttering of foliage besides those unidentifiable creature noises correlates perfectly with the characteristics of a cryptozoological document. It’s validity relies on the beliefs of whoever is consuming it. Veracity is untestable and based on the testament of the explorer, traveller or, in this case, Carcavilla. What are these animals he has recorded? The evidence is there to be heard, but the truth is never quite pulled into focus.

 

This intersection between fantasy and science is most evident on “The Stethacanthus/Skin Walkers” where the melodies are linear and the beastly noises least audible. Instead, the burbling of swamps and distant hum of insects settles as though some incredible creature passed through just seconds earlier, depositing footprint to be found and investigate later. It has the feel, not of science fiction, but of something more fleshed out and almost academic, like early paleontological exhibitions that took a brontosaurus leg and worked backwards to prove the existence of dragons.

 

With Hydrorion Remnants    Carcavilla has created something that could be both the soundtrack to a stroll through the dinosaur park at Crystal Palace in South East London and a low-budget film about chupacabras; by mixing his animal noise below level of percussion and instrumental tumult, he renders it as mysterious (and unidentifiable) granular half-truth, like photographs of loch monsters or the footprints of wild men. And, crucially, Carcavilla presents his pieces without a pencil laid beside them for scale: this inability to spot exactly what it is that growls in the foliage is, like the field of cryptozoology itself, the source of its allure.

 

Spencer Tomson

The Wire Magazine –#418 

December, 2018

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