Review: Leonardo Rosado – Mute Words

With his latest full length, Leonardo Rosado explores “the delicate boundary between thoughts and words”. From my perspective, it seems to occupy the space just either side of that boundary or directly upon it – its words and sounds track this crystallisation process, through which vaporous whisps of cognition begin to materialise into communication. The messages conveyed by Mute Words have still yet to fully take shape – solidified but not yet defined – and the album works with the merest glimmers of suggestion, still far from plucking concrete coherence out of the mass of thought.

Of course, ambient music is no stranger to the language of ambiguity, but Mute Words manages to make this ambiguity the point of focus without resorting to forced or clumsy techniques of concealment. Tones are muffled and set free to cycle in murky harmonic contortions, with any melodies granted only a hazy secondary role within the dense sonic fog; notes blur as though confused and tentative as to the direction they should be taking, poised in the moment before they align and come into clarity. Stirs of field recording (some of which sound like the bump of buoys against wooden harbours, some which sound like distant echoes of underwater drilling) feel caught in the tidal to and fro, conjuring vague outlines of relatable images in amongst the more abstract tone clouds.

Given the concept, the occasional use of voice makes for an appropriate addition. The words themselves are, as you may expect, abstract in nature – a poetically loose and colourful account of the process that turns the mire of thought into the refined and graceful shapes of language. The moments during which these words are spoken with conviction and precision feel less interesting; almost jarring with the caution and disconnection exercised by the music. But during album closer “Out of Pure Kindness”, Alicia Merz gets her delivery spot on, straddling the “boundary” at the heart of the album’s concept – just barely adopting the necessary mouth formations to coax words out of meaningless vocal exhalations, gently dipping into consonants with just the right amount of pressure to keep the words themselves intact, as though learning to speak for the very first time.