Refree • La otra mitad
Release Date: 07/12/2018
Cat-No: GBCD/LP 065
The Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida said, more or less, that “an artist should always try to do what he still does not know how to do.” Without actually knowing this quotation but only the sensation and the wakefulness behind it, Refree’s musical art seems to subscribe word for word to Chillida’s edict.
Having spent the last years as an inspired facilitator for, and co-creator with, a plethora of storied musicians (American songwriter Josh Rouse, the aforementioned Cruz, Ranaldo, Rosalía and many more), in 2017 Refree undertook the production of two instrumental leaning 10-inch solo EPs. The first of these, Jai Alai vol.01, is mostly a collection of reflective solo guitar music, with each title named according to the instrument used on the track and the date on which it was played (“Ramirez 11012017” / “Telecaster 01032017b”). The second Jai Alai volume is quite a different proposition, with the material coming from a soundtrack project, and the sound palette expanded to include recordings of street music, voices and a subtle electronic dimension.
The tak:til release La Otra Mitad is a full-length album that weaves together the two Eps and creates a dramatic new entity in itself. Whereas the guitar tracks included from Jai Alai vol.01 echo the spontaneity and sturdy simplicity of Derek Bailey or Durutti Column, they are balanced beautifully by the more textured soundtrack compositions from Jai Alai vol.02, that make up the majority of the album. One senses the search and discovery in all of this, especially when listening to how these tracks merge together. It feels boundless. The only self-imposed limit being no discernible limits. A skillful artist figuring out how to do, what he doesn’t know how to do. Refree gives us a glimpse into the album’s genesis:
“I started the first 10” collection because I didn’t feel like waiting for an album to be recorded and I was feeling more attached to showing what I was doing, and how I was feeling about music, right then. More like a work in progress. I also thought it was more related to the way music works nowadays. But after Jai Alai vol.2 I thought these two releases had a strong relation between them, in the way one is the evolution of the other. I wanted to do instrumental music, but at the same time I wanted vocal recordings to be the inspiration of some compositions. There’s no singer but there is one. There’s no more than just me on every song but at times there’s something like a whole orchestra.”
It is revealing that much of La Otra Mitad is music made for a movie. Or maybe, it could be called music from a movie (not all songs appear in the film). Or, perhaps also, music made during the construction of a movie. The film in question is “Entre dos aguas” by Isaki Lacuesta, a drama which explores the world of flamenco and uses non-professional actors. The director Lacuesta explains the soundtrack’s unconventional creative process:
“It was very good that Raül came to the filming in San Fernando, because he worked in the field just like us. Sometimes he was there during the filming of a scene and kept a recording of the voice of one of the characters, which then became a piece of music. Other times we would set up a barbecue with the team where he was invited and the next day, he would come back with a track called precisely that, Barbacoa. And on other occasions we showed him something in the editing room and worked the sound part right there, like Neil Young when he played music for Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Dead Man,’ which is a reference that I always had in mind during this process.”
Refree himself says that the referent that haunted him most was not Neil Young, but Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, the magnum opus of Gavin Bryars. In that piece, a cassette recording of a melody intoned by a homeless man is looped and repeated ceaselessly until a rare and at the same time ultra-emotive spiral climax is reached. The soundtrack pieces are an exercise in voices found and then converted into samples: that of flamenco singer Rocío Márquez, that of El Bolita, a boy who participated in the film and who spontaneously started singing in front of Raül, or the discarded vocal sketches from El Niño de Elche’s celebrated “Antología del Cante Flamenco Heterodoxo” which was co-composed and produced by Refree.
“I was very interested in the idea of making music with voices that were not recorded on purpose for this record,” says Raül. “They had to be recorded in other contexts, with another objective. This decision made me much more open to unforeseen things happening. And, in the end, this spirit fit with a line of work that I had been exploring for some time: to see what other areas can be reached with flamenco, something based on a certain idea of the South’s environment.”
Throughout the process of making La Otra Mitad, Raül Refree also found another voice: his own; always changing, always expanding in richness and always open to saying, what he does not yet know.