Before the rest of us knew what it was to live a rigidly isolated life, Claudio Szynkier created its soundtrack. The São Paulo artist suffers from an autoimmune condition that affects his ear, and requires him to avoid contact with others for periods of time. This new recording was produced during one of those stretches in 2019.
“I’ve lived a kind of internal apocalypse, and I had not much more than the open city at dawn to save me,” says Szynkier in the album’s notes. “I composed the music and thought of it as a soundtrack from an apocalyptic São Paulo, but a calm and utopian apocalypse. … The fact COVID-19 [struck] some months after is a strange coincidence. It sounds like a weird dream.”
The lack of conventional structure in each of these six pieces is palpable. Multiple, often incongruent sounds overlap to produce a gorgeously disorienting experience. Traditional instruments are featured in both classical and jazz styles. Sparse, sound art percussion and electronics lie just below that surface. Choral vignettes – applied like a separate instrument entirely – serve as both the album’s most prominent feature and as a kind of glue that holds all of it together.
Hearing a choir over a jazz horn over a synth line is bewildering, purposefully so. Everything is decontextualized, leaving Szynkier free to transform recognizable sounds into something entirely new and different.
His execution is inspired. Szynkier has produced the album of 2020. It alludes to the pandemic, climate change, the geopolitical state of things and all of the gnawing anxiety that comes with living in a world adrift.
Szynkier describes the album as “cryptic and dawnish, twilightish.” It is that lack of clarity that so defines this album and the world it portrays. It feels like the end of something; we hope it’s the beginning of something better. But we cannot understand the state of things, not fully. All we can do is recognize the loss of structure and find a way to embrace it.