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Cover Art Francisco López
Untitled #104
[Alien8]
Rating: 0.0

I love you. I really love you. How do I know? How am I able to confidently make such a blunt, forward statement so early in our relationship? Quite simple, really. I've subjected myself to Francisco López's new work, Untitled #104, twice in its entirety. But after each grueling, painful moment, I reminded myself that I was doing it for you, and I trudged forward. Surely you and I were made for each other.

López's previous work is classifiable as "silent music." That is, the sound is there, but only audible with headphones, complete concentration, and total surrounding silence. In fact, apparently not everyone can even hear this type of recording, even with those factors in mind. The idea of "silent music" intrigued me. Now the idea, along with the concept of Untitled #104, repels and disgusts me. Not that this "piece" of "music" falls entirely into that category, though. Oh, if only you knew how opposite the two worlds were.

Well, lover, I'm about to tell you. I take pleasure in telling you. López wants his listeners to enter into his works with no pre-ordained notions of what they sound like. See the cover art? Exactly. There is none. For not even the plainest of album covers would suit this brilliant artist! With no cover art, and no description of the sound or its sources on any of its official press, López attempts to dispel any prejudice you may have about Untitled #104. It doesn't work. The arty bullshit pretense grows thicker. I want to come to López's party, spike the punch with cyanide and shoot the lights out. And he even invited me! I should be ashamed of myself. I'm not. Here goes.

Untitled #104 is one track that is 43 minutes long. It seemingly opens with silence. Then, over the course of its first 5½ minutes, a snippet of what appears to be a power chord and a kickdrum lasting not even a second plays sporadically within the silence. It fades in louder each time, and the length of the silence between each sample varies, ranging from 25 seconds at first and eventually shortening to the length of the sample itself. The grating minimalism of this section is then blasted open by a hellish sound that more or less represents the next 27 minutes.

Distorted guitars and crashing drums are layered upon themselves to no end. There is no rhythm. There are no distinguishable notes being played. Only at a certain mark in the middle is the chaos stripped to one generic, passionless math-metal riff, which becomes buried shortly afterwards. I cannot tell you at what point this happens. During each listen, I wonder if the timer on my CD player is lying to me, and gradually curl up fetus-style, fighting every urge to put my hands over my ears. It has to change. I need to see if it changes. This can't be all there is. Sure, there are pure sadists out there, but that doesn't explain why one has a record deal.

At about 33½ minutes, when time suddenly comes back, silence cuts into the din. Finally, a much deserved release. Perhaps this is the silent music I was so interested in hearing. I listen intently for any indication. I hear none. Maybe my ear is too untrained. Five minutes pass. Still I hear nothing. I turn up the volume as loud as it possibly goes. I hear only the hiss of the headphones. I become increasingly frustrated, when suddenly, my CD player's timer clocks out. The end of Untitled #104. What, no fanfare?

I considered giving Francisco López a tenth of a point for at least offering silence as relief. I couldn't do it. I considered giving him a tenth of a point for so memorably disturbing me. I decided against it. If I made either of those zeroes disappear, I would be lying to you, my instinct, and myself. No rating is one of the hardest ratings to give, but López deserves it in full. I would believe that he had any decency in his soul if he would warn his unwitting, unsuspecting, kind-hearted listeners of the torturous experience that awaits them. That way, we could truly separate the masochists from the rest. But I know you, dear. You're not a masochist. I'm doing you a favor. This is my love gift to you. Happy Valentine's.

-Spencer Owen







10.0: Essential
9.5-9.9: Spectacular
9.0-9.4: Amazing
8.5-8.9: Exceptional; will likely rank among writer's top ten albums of the year
8.0-8.4: Very good
7.5-7.9: Above average; enjoyable
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible