Essential New Music: Concepción Huerta’s “The Earth Has Memory”

Sound’s a funny thing. You can feel its vibrations, but you’ll never put your hands on them. Concepción Huerta exploits that paradox on The Earth Has Memory. The audiovisual artist, who lives in Mexico City, makes sounds that feel uncommonly solid, but also diffuse.

The first step in accomplishing this task was selecting the right tools. Huerta usually starts by recording everyday objects onto tape, which permits her to physically interact with their sounds. But for this project, she also had access to the Buchla synthesizers at Stockholm’s Electronmusik Studio. These analog antiques afford those who can master them extraordinary flexibility to make and shape sounds, and Huerta used them to generate tones that throb and decay, evoking a sense of space beyond measure.

Committed to tape, then further processed with a bit of help from Chicago-based sound artist Olivia Block, these synthetic emissions suggest not only size, but texture. “Emerge From The Deep” opens The Earth Has Memory with a sequence of subtly varied sensations of roughness; the shimmering curtains and ascending pitches of its successor, “The Crack Is Illuminated,” feel like they glow from within. With these tracks, Huerta establishes the possibility for tones to evoke both the tactile qualities of rocks and their ability to harbor energy. The next, “Trepidation,” uses introduces emotion—but whose? Are its layers of churning whirs and blooming eruptions representing the fear of some spelunker forging into the deep or the Earth’s flinching at once more being poked and prodded by curious humans?

The rest of the LP addresses such questions. Rather than spoil it for you, let’s just suggest that when intrepid listeners are ready to pursue where mystery takes them, they should follow Huerta’s lead and get the right tools for the job: some good speakers or, at least, a quality headset. [Elevator Bath]

—Bill Meyer