Mas Aya, “Pockets” tape

January 29, 2013
By Bryon Hayes

With a title referring to Subcommandante Marcos’ vision of a grassroots Zapatista uprising from out of the jungles of Chiapas – what Marcos himself called “pockets of resistance” – this suite of experimental pieces from Brandon Valdivia (Not the Wind Not the Flag, Picastro, Pachamama) draws on a variety of global and Western song forms.  Over seven tracks, the traditional and popular styles of Colombia, Africa and Indonesia are juxtaposed with American free jazz, psychedelia and post-industrial noise. It’s a stirring concoction of sound from beginning to end, as Valdivia is a master sonic craftsman. This may be his debut solo outing, but he’s no amateur.

The two most abstract pieces bookend this cassette. “As Long as Grass Grows and Water Runs” is a shimmering miasma of unnatural percussion, while “Exiled From Presence” features layers of feedback-riddled thumb piano. “Cumbia Del Sol” drifts along a South American river bubbling with subtle electronics, while “Find Each Other” visits a loft in New York City’s free jazz heyday. Both “La Venas Abiertas” – which refers to the book exposing the exploitation of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano – and the title track feature lively flute improvisations overtop a propelling percussive beat. The expansive “Makes Choices” is quite possibly the most haunting piece featured, its treated percussion sailing on a ghostly breeze of drone.

Mas Aya, the name Valdivia chose for his solo work, is a sort of play on words. Masaya is the Nicaraguan town in which his grandmother was born, but in Spanish ‘mas allá’ means ‘the beyond.’ In a sense, Mas Aya is the perfect moniker for Valdivia’s work both solo and in Not the Wind Not the Flag. Here’s a percussionist who stretches his music beyond what could end up merely being an imitation of his influences. His own personal experiences and interests are injected into the mix to craft a singular vision, one that is an uncanny blend of the familiar and the esoteric. His is a true psychedelia – a consciousness-expanding brew of sound.

Tomaturj / Manufacture Errata

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