Though I’m reviewing it in old-fashioned stereo, Yawar Fiesta is a 7.1 surround sound extravaganza. Chain DLK doesn’t currently have an entry for “Blu-ray Audio” as a known format, so I’ve had to pick “Laser Disc” as a cludge, but please be assured this is Blu-ray.
Unconfined by the duration limitations of vinyl or CD, this is a work just shy of 90 minutes dominated by operatic vocal snippets, long drones and hums, and waves of both distant and close percussive vocal noises that attack and decay in a way that’s leisurely at times, but never comfortable. Sourcing the majority of the sonic ingredients from the voice — with a particular favouring of masculine bass operatic tones and throat singing, but not without feminine and spoken word moments too — but without actually using a singer, brings us frequently into bizarre arrangements akin to choral arrangements gone wrong — at times quite Ligeti-like. Much of the time the elements are multi-layered, keeping everything hectic and relentless throughout. Electronic glitches, tape-style effects, pitch shifts and flangey panning (isn’t that a type of cake?) are thoroughly modern and digital and give the work an extra twist.
The work is ostensibly an opera — the press release describes a piece in multiple acts that’s a hybrid of actual storytelling and the name-dropping of broad themes into something that’s frankly very difficult to follow. But the result definitely has distinct scenes, and when holding your attention, is like listening to the most off-the-wall opera re-work you’ve ever heard.
After the bewildering 44-minute journey of Condor (La veillée), second track Taureau (Le défi) doesn’t perhaps represent enough of a shift. The addition of traffic noises and horns gives the sonics a different hint, as does the heavier use of discernible French language sources, but the core arrangement is essentially half an hour more of the same experimental opera.
Monologue final is also consistent rather than contrasting, but with fewer operatic elements and more emphasis on digital processing such as layering offset copies of the same sample at different speeds, and with sound effects akin to alien rocket launches and monstrous whispers tilting it more in the direction of sci-fi. The sound of rolling stock evokes the spirit of the KLF towards the very end.
It’s an unusual buffet, sometimes reminiscent of 60’s avantgarde choral works, sometimes the spacier sound of 90’s ambient house, sometimes very contemporary and sharp-sounding digital electronic frippery. It’s got a unique quality to it that demands attention, even though at 87 minutes long it perhaps can’t hold that attention throughout.