Farewell and New Beginning - Essay on Angélica Castelló and "Bestiario"
by Andreas Felber
They say there is a farewell in every beginning. Or was it the other way round? In any case, "Bestiario" is about farewells. And it represents a new beginning, a clear initial marker in a vast field, a launching pad.
First, quite simply because "Bestiario" is Angélica Castelló's debut album. A debut long overdue if we consider the manifold ways the 38-year-old has been contributing to the Vienna music scene since 1999:
as a flutist (which seems something of a euphemism in reference to the monster instrument she plays, a Paetzold subgreatbass recorder), electronic sound designer, and composer hovering between the poles of contemporary
improvisation, electronic music, electroacoustics, field recording, and advanced structural thinking - which places her firmly among the open-minded spirits of the 1990s who have since established themselves as a
free-thinking segment of the Vienna music scene. In addition to all that she is also part of numerous band projects including the "Low Frequency Orchestra", an unconventional mix of instruments,
the four-woman group "Subshrubs", and the duos "frufru" with Maja Osojnik and "Chesterfield" with Burkhard Stangl - to name just a few. Last but not least, Castelló,
who was born in Mexico City and studied classical recorder in her hometown as well as in Montréal and Amsterdam, is also an event organizer who has for several years now been managing and curating the contemporary music
concert series "Neue Musik in St. Ruprecht" that takes place in the 12th-century Ruprechtskirche, Vienna's oldest church. As we see, Angélica Castelló has already made a range of contributions,
left traces, footsteps, set new courses. Now she is presenting her first work under her own name. A very personal solo album. An artistic calling card: "Bestiario".
The CD is also a new beginning in the sense of taking a step back from one's past, of working through personal experiences and biographical turning points, a bestiary, as the title implies, of private memories lurking in
Angélica Castelló's mind, waiting to be caught and tamed. "My music is abstract, but I am inspired by very concrete people and stories," Castelló says. She isn't the kind of musician who meticulously
pores over elaborate structures and concepts and then tries to express them. Rather, she draws from deep within herself, from encounters, breakups, experiences, thoughts. Not from musical programs that the listener should
have prior knowledge of, but from sparks that give rise to pieces that develop and take form in the process, ending up more or less linked to whatever triggered them. For this reason I will make only a few references to the personal initiating
forces behind the music on "Bestiario".
"Tombeau", "Krikaya", and "Lima" were inspired by people who once played an important role in Angélica Castelló's life, until - for various reasons - they disappeared, at least physically. In "Krikaya" one
can hear the echo of icebergs along with fragments from Dmitri Shostakovich's Sonata for Viola and Piano, his last work, composed in the face of death. "Lima" has to do - among other things - with the memory of a shared
experience of observing slugs ("limace") and "Air" from Johann Sebastian Bach's Orchestral Suite #3 as part of a funeral service, whereas "La Fontaine" is based on Jean de la Fontaine's well-known fable about the industrious
ant and the grasshopper whose love for music and Bohemian lifestyle leaves him begging for food in the wintertime. "Ksenia" and "Louise" were inspired by two women whom Angélica Castelló never met personally.
The first title refers to her Russian grandmother whose family fled to Mexico via Finland after the October Revolution. The second is dedicated to Louise Bourgeois, the French-American artist who died in 2010 and who was the
most important influence in Castelló's life - because she knew how to work through traumatic personal experiences creatively, knew how to translate life's inspirations directly and without compromising her own
integrity into works that transcend the self and can be freely interpreted, works that move many people. That's what Angélica Castelló wants to do, too. For "Louise" she imagined one of Bourgeois' giant spider
sculptures inside a church and used sounds from the Mˇrida Cathedral in Yucatan as an acoustic layer for this ambivalent "Maman" image that shifts back and forth between threatening and protective.
But her music should awaken the listener's own images, thoughts, emotions, memories.
Today when Castelló listens to her music, she especially remembers the pleasure of working on the sounds: she compares the process with that of painting a picture in which color is applied layer
by layer and later parts are scratched away, allowing a complex structure of fragmentary and intact superimposed layers to emerge. In her case the first phase of collecting sounds - whether they arise from the flute,
computer or radio, are acoustic objets trouvés, or come from circuit bending, in other words from creative unconventional uses of everyday electronic devices - is followed by the layering phase in which up to 50
voices or structures are superimposed over each other, and this in turn is followed by the compressing and thinning-out phase. Here the sounds themselves take control and develop their own dynamics. And in the end they
result in the collage-like sound structures we are confronted with on "Bestiario". Music that is both visual and abstract, that calls forth memories and chases them away, that often seems to drift over from a different age,
a different world, and yet is still grounded in the here and now. Complex, many-layered sound paintings, rough surfaces beneath which very often something concrete lurks: sounds full of warmth, poetic tenderness,
"Bestiario" tells stories about yearning, loneliness, death, but also about a sense of security, about moments of happiness, about things one leaves behind. Stories about farewells and new beginnings. Stories about life.
Translation: Kimi Lum