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Oxomaxoma - Las Pesadillas de Eustaquio Rahan CD (album) cover




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3 stars The core of the Oxomaxoma sound has always been formed by two non-musicians (as they call themselves): José Alvarez and Arturo Romo, surrounded by a wide list of guest musicians, some of them, from the main progressive groups in Mexico: Decibel, Nirgal Vallis, Saena or Nine Rain among others. Although in this extremely rare, almost disappeared recording, we find them playing as a duo for the unique occasion, on a more uniform and consistent second effort "Las Pesadillas de Eustaquio Rahan" (Eustachian Rahan's Nightmares), where prehispanic instruments are used with discretion, leaving a lot of room for the dark-ambient side of the group, no harm to the continuity on their sound, that evolves fast from one album to the next in this era (1980-1997), the most prolific on Oxomaxoma's history.

This intriguing set of eleven improvisations, works fine as a concept album, on it, the world of surrealism invades our sonic space, not from the path of dreams, but nightmares. The American writer H.P. Lovecraft has been pointed out by band members as a main inspiration, and this is more evident here than in the previous album, the music on the other hand, has been accomplished with the same methods: diverse recordings of household objects sampled and passed through electronic effects, toy or self made instruments, vocal improvisations, ambient synthesizers and processed mandolin, among others.

Album opens with "Incisiva I" (Incisive I) a piece based on a dynamic rhythm pattern achieved with some kind o percussion passed through a delay effect, that makes it sound like an electric guitar instead, this is accompanied by a cermonial prehispanic instrument, a big seashell used as woodwind with a very low sound, similar to Tibetan horns. Some trademark vocal improvisation by Alvarez completes the passage.

Then, at the distance, through an abandoned forest of rusted machines and giant gears, comes the echo of a distant screaming, something like an amplified squeak or a metal screech that floats ethereal in this cold wet ambient, then it's gone, only for returning again and again, it's the second track "El Poder y la Fuerza de la Naturaleza" (The Power and Force of Nature), that comes swallowing everything into the womb of a misty landscape.

"Jericó: Toma de una Ciudad Dormida" (Jericho: Taking a Sleeping City), this one illustrates the biblical passage in which the city of Jericho is destroyed by the people of Israel, led by Joshua. The track is based in a slow paced, heavily delayed percussion pattern with some low long human howling or moan, probably one of the darkest and chaotic tracks on the album.

"Primera Pesadilla: Primera Visita al Tribunal del Santo Oficio" (First Nightmare: First Visit to the Tribunal of the Holy Office) this is more dynamic, with drums used to generate the effect of a solemn march, accompanied by occasional squawking woodwinds, that leads to the next track "Segunda Pesadilla: Segunda Visita al Tribunal del Santo Oficio" (Second Nightmare: Second Visit to the Tribunal of the Holy Office), this has a more relaxed pace, seems to be based on the use of trombatron, a self made instrument with riveted springs on a table, that serves as percussion. The Holy Office had a lot of activity in Mexico during the Spanish colony, persecuting heretics and carrying out sentences, so it was actually a real nightmare, and these tracks have also a historical character, in addition to dream.

"Marcelino, Pan y Paleta de Ardilla" (Marcelino, Bread and Squirrel Lollipop) This strange name is in fact a game of words, a joke on a very popular old Spanish movie here in Mexico "Marcelino, Pan y Vino" (Marcelino, Bread and Wine), it seems to be based again on the use of trombatron, but for me sounds like beaten pipes, accompanied by a speech of senseless words, treated with a higher pitch.

The original second side on the cassette was like a cyclical new beginning, like going in circles "Incisiva II" (Incisive II) uses the same rhythm pattern and delay effect than its first part, but this time it's accompanied by a very smooth, cool prehispanic clay flute solo.

The title track is one of my favorites "Las Pesadillas de Eustaquio Rahan: El Tribunal Dicta Sentencia" (Rahan Eustachian Nightmares: the Court Dictates Sentence), it starts with a very nice work of counterpoint of prehispanic woodwinds, accompanied by a solemn march rhythm, played with beaten metal plates maybe and completed with a low pitched voice speech, aided by discrete prehispanic stone percussions. By the way, the title is also a game of words, meaning something like "a nightmare for coward ears".

"Fanfarrias y Bostezos" (Fanfares and Yawning) it's a little lighter track, with a treated mandolin and vocal improvisation, from time to time, the voice is accompanied by a toy trumpet playing a New Orleans style solo.

"El Niño del Tambor" (Little Drummer Boy) yes, you've probably guessed this one! It's a very singular rendition of the Christmas classic, ironically with no drums but treated mandolin, and meaningless vocalizations, it even closes with tiny bells.

"Corazón de Punta de Huarache" (Heart of Huarache Tip) another strange name, "huarache" it's a kind of indian shoe, very common here in Mexico. After the break provided by last two tracks, the album closes with a final ambient nightmarish track, achieved with a lot of processed sounds to create a very dreamy tranquility, and when the silent comes, then you realize you've been awaken all the time.

Without any doubt, this is not an album for everybody, just people who like taking risks and be surprised. These guys at the time were truly searching for new terrains on the making of unorthodox music, and this is the testimony of their achievements.

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Posted Saturday, November 23, 2013 | Review Permalink

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