The extensive interview with Alan (or is it Anla?) Courtis in The Wire mag this month prompted me to dig out a couple of recent-ish albums by this mercurial Argentine guitar and tape prankster. Despite his sprawling discography, (more than a hundred releases so far and counting), he flies under the radar a bit. So it was great to see him featured so prominently. His restless spirit means he’s always doing something interesting, and so it is well worth grabbing at least a couple of his albums if you see them.
Split is, as the title suggests, a collaboration between Courtis and Hong Kong’s Alok Leung. Released on Alok’s Lona record label earlier this year it sees Courtis and Leung remixing each other’s work, resulting in two long electronic pieces. Serialspace is Leung’s take on Courtis, a spacey 28-minute chunk of digital drift. An glacial piano figure echoes through the cavernous sound field, massive and hypnotic, as a series of electronic textures – harsh data glitches, frenetic aluminium scrabblings , earthy rumbles – evolve underneath. As the track progresses, everything is slowly enveloped in an onrushing tide of crashing fuzz. Silver, meanwhile, is Alok via Anla. It’s a typically quirky manipulation that sounds as if the someone has played a slice of pulsing techno piece through a tinny radio, left the radio in a road tunnel and then recorded the results. The overall effect is somewhere between the wire wool scrub of harsh noise and the shimmering echo of dub.
Courtis’ album of duets with Japanese guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama, Naranja Songs, is a more pared-down affair. Recorded in 2008 in Buenos Aires and released this year, it is beautifully unruffled and reflective.
Mind Mochila is all stillness and meditation, its twin acoustic guitars picking out fragile, winding figures that slowly curl around each before dissipating like wisps of smoke. The Citrico Vibe, a companion piece of sorts, is more bucolic vibe, its melodic lines rippling out with a relaxed ease.
In contrast, Springs & Strings is more austere, replacing plucked melodies with long metallic tones and throbs, probably the result of extended techniques. There’s more scraping on Los Frets Nomades – possibly from some kind of bowed guitar – but this time, it is leavened by an angular picked guitar line. Interestingly it’s the one time on the album when the air of tranquillity is replaced by something less comfortable, inducing a sense of unease just as the album draws to a close.
You can get Split by Anla Courtis and Alok Leung from the Lona Records website.
You can get Naranja Songs here.