Review: Paula Schopf – Espacios en Soledad

KARAOKE KALK.

These 16 minutes were assembled from sound walks captured in Schopf’s birthplace of Santiago de Chile, from which she has twice departed: firstly in a flight of exile during the 70s, and again to move to Berlin in the 90s. Returning home is often complicated. Schopf makes this apparent during the piece’s opening minute, as eerie hums curdle with aeroplane safety announcements and the hiss of idling engines. Once she touches down, we are dragged into the struggle of reconciling one’s memory with the present. Heading down the same old streets triggers both jolts of familiarity and a frank confrontation with all that has changed; nostalgia perches awkwardly amidst a life experience that perceives the place anew.

Shouted conversations across the street are cut short by abrupt edits. Outdoor spaces blur into reverberant interiors. Violin-like textures mingle with bustling crowds; the amplification of certain voices could well belong to the field recordings themselves (i.e. relayed via tannoy system in the actual spaces), or could have had their distortion and delay applied in post. This ambiguity of what belongs where is perfect – an enactment of that second-guessing of memory (is it just me, or is this place not as I remember?), while the restless rearrangement of events throughout Espacios en Soledad feels like an attempt to configure the scene into some sort of emotional coherence. On several occasions the piece cuts away from public space, suddenly plunging the listener into zones that feel like submerged interiors, as if in a state of sudden detachment – lost somewhere between how things were and how things are, unable to assimilate the impressions of these two points in time. Many of the record’s themes coalesce in the sound of old lady falling asleep while singing the same three songs by famous Chilean composer and folklorist Violeta Parra, embodying the crucial juncture between geographic history, recollective fallibility and knotted time.