Review: Juan Carlos Vasquez – Collages

CoverCollages is a whirlpool of reaction and sensation, of legacy and private detail. The album takes the solo works of several classical composers (Beethoven, Ysaye, Mussorgsky, Bach, Borges, Chopin, Satie), and smears it upon the palm of digital processing, wedging mirrors into performances that, in their original form, may appear so singular and unfaltering. Through the blurs and cavities of his collages, I find myself instantly questioning my perception of classical performance: what if the original pieces – which seemingly exhibit their composer in immaculate truth, flawlessly assured as they navigate time and space – are actually compiled of micro-fragmented doubt and humorous quirk? As Vasquez twirls Bach into a small room of phobias, shadows, childhood videotapes and queasy nightmare merry-go-rounds, am I hearing the amplified ticks of composer personality that always resided, dormant and microscopic, within the original work?

I have to catch myself before I free-fall into Vasquez’s pockets of deliberate, rippling ambiguity. Strings melt down into a reverberant slosh of grey with delicate protrusions of intricate shape (Ysaye), while pianos extend and shimmer like a mansion staircase in mirage (Chopin); I see narrative and autobiography lurking in indistinct silhouette within the undulation, like the hidden secrets of each composer uttered as incoherent whisper. I follow them curiously, questioning their significance, unrequitedly, as Chopin’s widely renowned harmonic flavour dismantles into darkness and sickness – ivory sliding up and down by zip wire, atonality curdling like dry ice, low frequencies rolling from right to left and taking the centre of gravity with them. The experience is both enlightening and devastating, as my quest for answers draws me down corridors of unrequited question.