Review: Juan Antonio Nieto + Metek – Umber

UmberThe most prominent force on Umber is empty space. I hear winds of different thicknesses and speeds, somersaulting through spaces of varying size and texture, enlivening loose surfaces and microphone membranes. I hear the rush of air through gigantic stone structures (old forts perhaps?), and objects splashing into the echoes of concrete car parks. I hear emptiness as prominently as I hear physical presence. It’s a white noise, or a chorus of deep sighs, or a refuge for stray and cavernous reverberation. These seven collages use different forms of emptiness like colours in a palette, each with unique hues and points of contrast. Vacant spaces converse with eachother as Nieto and Metek slot them together, creating dialogues of sibilance and earthly exhale.

There are traces of life (noisily handled objects, flashes of light), albeit warped by gigantic echoes and bobbing upon waves of interference. Pieces of metal are clanged together in a far corner of stereo space; fires are set crackling and carefully nurtured; voices are twisted into streams of alien phonetic. Choirs and drones fizz overhead like comets, glimmering and promptly extinguishing. I never perceive anything in absolute clarity. Instead, Nieto and Metek refract everything through the lens of acoustic reflection and hampered fidelity. I peer across oceans of dead air in search of those tiny twinkles of life. On the fifth piece, a piano emerges like a green bud sprouting amidst pale infertility. Within such a vast and uncompromising sense of allusion and mortal vacancy, the melody feels like a miracle.