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Barbatrulos (Freedom From)

Wednesday, Jan 24 2001
Thanks to the far-reaching tentacles of the Internet, anyone with a computer has access to information about musically obscure groups once known only to readers of elitist xeroxed fanzines and to clandestine tape traders. One of the fruits of this boom is the sudden buzz surrounding the unconventional Argentine trio Reynols. While most coverage of this combo focuses on the fact that drummer/vocalist Miguel Tomasin has Down's syndrome, Reynols is no shameless novelty act. In fact, the group's recordings reveal an attention to sonic detail and playfulness that is unmatched by few serious noise artists. By celebrating unself-conscious expression, Reynols gleefully dismantles expectations for rock.

On past releases the group has offered tribal noise freakouts, field recordings of 10,000 chickens, collaborations with Mills College composer Pauline Oliveros, the sound of blank tapes, and "dematerialized" songs featuring just the jewel box and artwork (the CD itself having "disappeared"). For the uninitiated, Barbatrulos -- one of at least six Reynols records due for release in the next few months -- is a good place to start, as it favors a relatively song-based approach.

Still, these are not AM radio-type songs. The album's centerpiece (there are no song titles, the band explains, "because they went to buy osobuco to feed our Chihuahua dog") may have a guitar riff, but it's fuzzed out nearly beyond recognition. A weepy folk ballad sounds like it was recorded on a telephone answering machine, while another piece features clipped shrieks that could easily be the looped sound of squawking parrots. Elsewhere, pneumatic drills hum, a Japanese koto is plucked, and a reverb-drenched harmonica seems to play over field recordings of subway trains. Although the other two Reynols, Robeto Conlazo and Anla Courtis, get album credits for playing electric guitars, the songs feature few notes or chords. And Tomasin's mysterious, language-free, chanted lyrics -- akin to those by Damo Suzuki of German experimental rock pioneers Can -- prove untranslatable even to a Spanish speaker.

The album's homemade collage sleeve features images of Tomasin and cohorts in mock rock-star poses and motorcycle shades. While Reynols may be thumbing its nose at rock music, the end result is an engaging tapestry of sounds.

About The Author

Silas Paine


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