Ricardo Donoso


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Symmetry Review

by Paul Simpson

One of the best things about German label Denovali Records is that whenever they sign an artist, they usually make an effort to reissue out of print items in their back catalog in addition to releasing their new material. Brazilian composer and electronic musician Ricardo Donoso received much acclaim for his releases on the now-defunct Digitalis label, and after Denovali released two new albums by Donoso in 2015, as well as reissuing his 2010 cassette Deterrence, the label presented a lavish box set of his sought-after trilogy of albums Progress Chance, Assimilating the Shadow, and As Iron Sharpens Iron, One Verse Sharpens Another. On 2011's Progress Chance, Donoso crafted flickering, shimmering synth arpeggios reminiscent of early-'90s trance and ambient techno, but without beats. The album's bright, bubbling tones are reflective and nostalgic, but with a tinge of fear and uncertainty lurking underneath. The album doesn't seem heavy on the surface, so it's easy to overlook how subtly complex the arrangements are at first. It's an album for watching the sun rise after a long, bleary night out while you're too restless to fall asleep just yet. Originally released as a double LP in 2012, Assimilating the Shadow is more ambitious, stretching track lengths closer to the ten-minute mark, and letting the fear and suspense creep in. The album seems to reach further back to the earlier, pre-techno era of cosmic space music, with more gripping melodies and a wider range of dynamics. Expressive yet nuanced, it's easily one of Donoso's best works. Arriving in 2013, As Iron Sharpens Iron, One Verse Sharpens Another (initially released as two separate vinyl EPs but intended as a proper album) found Donoso coming closer to producing proper techno, with pulsating beats and more clearly defined rhythms on some of the tracks, particularly during the album's second half. Final track "The Master Game" could easily fit in a DJ set of early-'90s trance, in the KLF "Pure Trance" sense of the word. Other tracks such as "The Sphinx" exhibit a sense of mystery and discovery, more fit for exploring the ruins of ancient civilizations than for a post-club comedown. Taken as a whole, the trilogy is a stunning body of work.

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