JOÃO CASTRO PINTO – Suntria / Imaginal Sonotopes


I can’t deny an indefensible unawareness in regard to the recorded output of Portuguese composer João Castro Pinto, a man who – in his own description – is “interested in the art of composing silence with sounds”. The statement appears sinisterly close to that “propaganda of hush” which, more often than not, reveals a scarcity of core significance; on the other hand the man’s CV looks impressive, his involvement in several interesting projects seemingly moved by the spirit of a genuine researcher of the inscrutable.

Although Suntria does feature nearly silent segments, since the very beginning – and without even the slightest glance to the totally explicative liner notes – we realized that this is not an album produced with a single idea encircled by idle words. Inside an acousmatic expressiveness somewhat akin to that of his Australian colleague Philip Samartzis, Castro Pinto positions events, presences, voices, timbres and quiet intervals with commonsensical care, focusing on the minute details while widening the observer’s perspective. A skilled control of the dynamic variations represents a major plus: abrupt shifts in volume and textural grain caused a bit of surprise in this listener, by now used to foretell the unfolding of albums belonging to the shopworn “cinema for the ear” category as the proverbial depressed being encrusted on the couch, watching the hundredth rerun of an old flick with a cigarette dangling from the mouth.

In spite of all of the above, the bulk of this piece is made of echoes that should result rather familiar to an audience, be it practiced or just casual. Marine washing and seagulls can’t fail, as well as sheep, birds, rain and frogs; the clattering of metallic and/or wooden objects, humming/droning stasis and whirring machineries are also part of the formula. And, of course, people are caught chatting here and there. Sometimes Castro Pinto applies sudden amplification like a magnifying lens, causing a scene to grow psychological implications through the sheer expansion and repercussion of its sonic components. There’s always a way to take a deep breath, though; and when one can breathe during the process of evaluation of a recording – whatever the genre – it’s usually a sign of brilliance on behalf of its creator.

One of the best Unfathomless releases of the last two/three years, definitely recommended.

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