Steve Flato: Mara’s Daughters

Lengua de Lava cassette (Lava001CS)

Lengua de Lava is a new experimental music label from Yucatan, Mexico, run by two fearless explorers of outer reaches of sound, Gerardo Alejos and Enrique Rejón. Gerardo in particular has form in this area, having organised the Cha’ak’ab Paaxil improvisation festival, which for the last six years has brought together home grown improvisers with international avant-heads like Paal Nilssen-Love, Jason Lescalleet and Bonnie Jones.

The name of the label – the English translation is ‘tongue of fire’ – comes from a prose poem by the Cuban poet José Martí and is a pretty good summation of its first release, a cassette of incendiary data storms by the San Diego noisenik Steve Flato.

Mara’s Daughters, the 43-minute scourge that fills up the first side of the tape, is a swirling tempest of white noise, bracing and gritty in its textures. Flato painstakingly created the piece from raw (non-audio) data files, messing around with bit rates and algorithms, then adding extra layers of sound from open-circuit radios and reel-to-reel tapes.

In a time where it’s all too easy to turn everything up to 11 and chuck it out onto the internet, Flato’s dedication in creating this piece is admirable, and the results are pretty good too, an intense, all-out wave of harshness, but one that gradually mutates and transforms across its running time while never lessening the intensity.

Listening to it is like being hit by a hurricane, then picked up and tossed around in the stormy whirl of the tempest. About 10 minutes in, there’s a rare moment of serenity, as a high-pitched whistle becomes the dominant frequency, before the scuzz and torment comes raging back in.

Side B dials down the harsh noise wall meets Eliane Radigue a bit for Mara’s Veils, 11 minutes of spluttering voltage that bucks and twists like a cut cable. Halfway through, the noise rather unsubtly gives way to a vibrating metallic drone, which slowly works its way back up to a heaving temper tantrum of rusty scree. While not as painstakingly put together as its companion piece, it has a grumpy power all of its own, acting as a kind of wizened, malevolent cousin to side A.

There’s less noise, more atmosphere in the final piece in the trio, Salton Sea, a haunting ambient piece reminiscent of Kevin Drumm’s quieter moments. Inspired by the abandoned tourist spot that gives the track its title, it has a stately grandeur, moving with an unhurried pace of an unflinching camera slowly panning around a fogged, ghostly landscape. As the final tones of the piece fade into silence, the temperature in the room seems to have dropped by several degrees.

All in all, a finely realised work, and a fantastic statement of intent from this new label.


Get it here.

Check out more of Steve Flato’s releases on his Bandcamp page and at the Free Music Archive.



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