Label: Enough Records
Bandcamp stream: Link
The hardest thing about writing reviews can be when something takes you out of your comfort zone or familiar surroundings, and whilst you certainly enjoy what you hear, putting such thoughts down in to words and describing them can be difficult. Such is my predicament when writing about the self-titled début album from Portuguese noise artist Aires. I enjoy noise and experimental records, especially when they take me away, or introduce me to something new that I struggle to find the vocabulary for; yet the reason I listen to so few of them compared to other styles is because very few of them ever achieve this, or succeed in holding my interest. As such, I can only apologise if what follows does not read as well as my typical reviews, but rest assured, I recommend this album heavily.
My favourite records within this genre or style are those that succeed in conjuring up a sense of “otherness” whilst still retaining just a strong enough hint of humanity or earthliness for them to still feel real, which is just what Aires does. Long, haunting drones and half-heard sounds on opener “Oranico I – Vozes Sem Corpo” create an immense sense of dread and anticipation, as if something terrible is certainly coming, or perhaps has already happened. There is a sparseness to the music that is a perfect demonstration of “less is more”, with the moments of relative quiet being just as important and strong as those that are busier; the music strays in to dark ambient territory at times. Second track “Oranico II – Monolitico” carries on this sense, with the two tracks being linked by more than just name, though here the ominous sense is more obvious, with more active elements in the track. It is still relatively sparse though, and possesses something other-worldly and strange about it. Yet for all that, there is clearly something human beneath the surface, some undercurrent that makes these tracks – and indeed, the whole record – very arresting, and almost welcoming, as odd as that may sound.
“Isosceles” follows, a piano-led interlude track that helps to set up album closed “Contraplacado”, which is something truly majestic to hear. The most full-on track of the album, it is hardly harsh noise, but by comparison to what has come before, it is very immediate and intense in a more obvious manner. Waves of synth ebb in and out like the tide, whilst a background of pure awe and terror is always present, conjured by what sounds like the shoegaze or post-metal version of noise music. It is here where I truly struggle to find easy descriptions or comparisons, but what is much easier to describe are the feelings and emotions this track stirs. There is a warmth that emanates from this song, and for all the apocalyptic visions and despair it might summon, it also projects a sense of hope, as if some benevolent being has appeared from the skies to offer a glimpse of salvation, or to reassure us that the end is no bad thing after all. A clear melody appears towards the end of the song, creating a real sense of climax and drama, and all these elements together make the song in to something incredibly emotional and moving. The song gradually fades to a close, and perhaps that’s for the best – the heights it reaches during its duration are as touching as few things I have heard, and an obvious ending would risk spoiling that.
And it is this that makes me recommend Aires so heavily. Noise has a reputation for being clinical, for lacking in genuine human emotion and warmth, but Aires suffers from no such problems. It possesses a heart and soul that is lacking in the vast majority of other music, regardless of genre. And whilst it may require patience and a little attention, the pay-off is more than worth it. Whilst “Contraplacado” is the clear highlight, the rest of the record is very strong, and should not be over-shadowed by the closer. It achieves the seemingly contradictory goals of taking me away from the world and also making me feel more connected to and appreciative of it, and that is a feeling that is hard to over-state in its emotional, almost spiritual cleansing.