2020 / Milvus
Review by Kathy Parsons
Over the past eight years, Hugo Selles has become one of my favorite artists. I reviewed his debut album, Memories From a Cold Place (as Psychic Equalizer) in 2012, and have reviewed several of his other recordings since then, including two of the four albums he released in 2019. Ethereal has nine tracks, two of which were originally composed for other projects, and seven that were more recently improvised and arranged “on the spot.” Feeling that he needed to reflect on the whole “lockdown feeling” of the COVID-19 pandemic, Selles spent six nights recording and mixing the music. “I liked how fresh and spontaneous the whole thing was and didn't want to spoil that feeling by re-composing things or adding more tracks.” Often edgy and experimental, the instrumentation on Ethereal is more electronic than some of Selles’ other music, but is also reflective of the wide diversity of his musical interests and his extensive musical training. Overall, the album is dark and intense, and each track is different from the others in instrumentation and style - from ambient to more melodic - telling a fascinating story.
Ethereal begins with “The Ethereal Beauty of Solitude,” which was originally intended for Psychic Equalizer’s The Sixth Extinction (2019), “but the whole project evolved in a different way and it didn't fit at all within the musical atmosphere of that album.” The sounds of birds chirping and bells tolling act as a brief prelude leading to the graceful ambient beauty of the main part of the piece. “Hypoxemia” refers to a low level of oxygen in the blood, and the piece with that title is very ambient with a single chord played on an organ running through the entire piece, along with other sounds - very mysterious and a little strange, especially near the end. “El Bosque Marino” was written for the opening act of a new cultural center in Santander, Selles’ hometown on the northern coast of Spain. The almost ten-minute piece was inspired by a set of photographs and a short story about the loneliness of a young man who leaves his hometown near a forest and moves to a coastal town for studies or work. When he looks at the ocean waves from a different angle, they look more like tree bark to him and he feels less lonely or far from home. The emotions expressed in the music are very dark, powerful and desolate, using a combination of piano and electronic sounds - a favorite! “Total Absence of Consciousness in Isolation” is lighter and begins as something of an electronic piano jazz piece. Very free-form, the music intensifies as it unfolds, adding more layers of instrumentation and then ending abruptly. “Der Winter kommt züruck” returns to a darker, more ominous tone, much of which is played in the deep bass of the piano. “Metaphysical Abstractions” and “061” up the energy level to a more frenetic pace with a variety of different sounds and rhythms. “Komorebi” is more piano-based, but is not a piano solo. I had to look up the meaning of the title, and found that it is “the Japanese word for the interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through trees.” As magical as the experience itself, I really like this one, too! The album closes with “À La Fin,” which makes me think of a sad merry-go-round playing a duet with a piano - an odd but interesting way to end!
Ethereal is available from Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music and streaming sites like Spotify.
August 21, 2020
with Psychic Equalizer