(Entertainment Systems, 2015)
Cian’s first tape for Entertainment Systems, the bubbly and inviting Riparian, fully showcases maestro Kevin Altamirano Zubiría’s penchant for mathematical playfulness and experimentation. Indeed, in the press for previous release Gemlux on Mexico City–based label Umor Rex, we’re made aware that Kevin’s got a briefcase full of “graduate and academic titles,” with the label going so far as to call him a prodigy. A prodigy! That’s pretty high praise for anyone, let alone a freaking math whiz. Well there you go – when you’re in the presence of Cian, you’re in the presence of order, of the universal language – two universal languages if you count both music and mathematics. We’ve got some Cluster on that Voyager craft, right?
Riparian is some first-class chillout action, stasis chamber accompaniment on deep-space voyages. Cian’s synth work is at once understated and majestic, in the sense that single notes pierce the silence and weave among one another like atoms, but when you’re observing them on a molecular level and surrounded by nothing else, their importanice increases by comparison. Take cassette opener “Extend” for instance – it tentatively blooms with tonal points, then stretches out and interacts with itself, growing bolder as it progresses until it fills the vacuum. “Optical Calisthenics” is as scientific in sound as Cian gets, cold and clinical and piloting that spacecraft through interstellar turbulence. “Tidal Extensions” and “Harmonia” (is that one obvious or what?) are softer, gentler, and more refined. And “Hudson Song” itself is simply gorgeous, as gently plucked tones hover over a mist of synth chords. It’s pure tranquility.
Side B features a reworking of each track, and the results are just as magnificent as their companion versions. “Extend (Negative Reflection)” reverses the tones but thickens the synth, resulting in an extra-psychedlic overload. Many of the tracks upend the originals and feel a bit more insular, more introspective. “Hudson Song (Seasons Reprise),” in particular, benefits from the inward turn, taking a subtler direction. But “Silica Tides (Recursive Erosion)” ends the tape with an explosion of sound, synaesthetic color bursting outward in oscillating waves. It’s invigorating after the rest of the tape, but its brief appearance is a reminder that while the destination is pretty rad, the whole trip is worth the effort. Cian scores high marks for Riparian, and I’m not even going to require him to show his work! (That’s a math joke, yuk yuk, long division, etc.)
RIYL: H Takahashi, Bastian Void, Opaline