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"The Verbal Matter: An Anthology of Peruvian Sound Poetry"

La Materia Verbal - Antología de la Poesía Sonora PeruanaHere is a stunning history of Peruvian sound poems from 1972-2021. The album concentrates on material which has been recorded and edited, and yet showcases the compositional technique and sound organization across the spectrum of the discipline. It's an important and refreshing collection of 22 inherently absurd musical pieces, accompanied by seriously good liner notes.


Sound poetry can arguably be traced to oral poetry traditions, but I'm more inclined to believe it emerged from the Dadaist reaction to the horrific carnage of World War One, specifically through Richard Huelsenbeck and Tristan Tzara. Certainly it progressed through the 20th century parallel with the evolution of recording and editing technology. As mentioned, The Verbal Matter covers all the evolving styles, including montage, verbal dexterity, algorithms and computational parameters, and the use of AI.

The Verbal Matter has myriad brilliant examples of montage technique, juxtaposition and simultaneity, to really ignite one's imagination. The childlike innocence of Mario Montalbetti's "Music For Quince Grullas Tied On Their Paws" is a lovely start, with children's voices, piano, and upright bass, creating a spirit of playful innocence. Quite a contrast to Carlos Estela's "Unco Erpo,'' which is more like hearing snatches of a phone call as you lay barely conscious in the dirt of a local gangster's remote pig farm awaiting your fate. I love every track on this record, but am particularly taken with the hallucinatory one-two punch of a pair of tracks. Florentino Diaz Ahumada's "Wind Poem," a weaving, teasing piece of music, sent me off on a mental journey: sitting at a cafe in a walled medieval city during a festival of death or fertility, listening to the ghost of an ex-spy, and suddenly realizing the coffee has been spiked. It is a master stroke to follow that with the sublime jolt of Luisa Fernando Linda's "State of Emergency (Commonplace)," a mindblowing piece of bizarre blurred vocal echoes, bookended by sirens. Having said that, "Pop es cia'' by Giancarlo Huapaya and Omar Córdovar is perhaps the wildest piece, with voices competing for attention through a fog of magnetic hum, and electronic bleeps whirring as crazily as high-speed Conet number stations bouncing off one of Michael Collins's fillings on the dark side of the moon.

Vocal performance skill is represented here by several phonetic and concrete conceptual works, none more astounding than Omar Aramayo's "Tribute to Marcela Castro," parts of which genuinely sound as if he's gorging himself on acidic radioactive dust seeping from the froth-corrupted lungs of a diseased monk or achieving an ecstatic state by choking down a dish of raw frogs. On "Sensual Reading Architecture: Persistent Music," Enrique Verástegui uses an algorithmic framework in which to produce the insanely sonorous equivalent of a monk required to endlessly repeat modal yodeling of an eye chart. Artificial intelligence is used to create a couple of pieces, including the fantastic space age tones of Francisco Mariotti's "Dada Manifesto 1918 Reordered 1985," which sounds remarkably how I imagine a suitably shell shocked version of Robert the Robot from Fireball XL5 might sound, and the brief final manic "Hypercommunication" from Luis Alvarado. Alvarado, founder of Buh Records, has compiled this fine collection and contributed essential listening notes.

Tragically, in 2022/23, Peru is ruled by a dictatorship where security forces massacre those who dare to protest. An absurd situation and not at all refreshing. Naturally people try to carry on living and working. Respect to Buh for doing just that and producing one of the best albums of 2022, or indeed any year.

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