The Prickle (@ThePrickle) September 18, 2019
The rise of Netflix and other streaming services has led to countless box-sets of dramatic emotion finding their way into our living rooms, bedrooms and lives. With their heightened production values and artisan aesthetic, soundtracks have also become a cornerstone of our media experience. Top of this familiar format, orchestral minimalism (often with sparing electronics) has emerged as a budget-friendly option that has almost become a sub-genre of its own. So fixed are the features of this music type that upon listening to Carlos Cipa’s Retronyms, one could be forgiven for asking which chart-topping series it hails from.
Despite the similarities in compositional outcome, this work is not actually attached to your newest streaming indulgence. That said, it is a challenge to listen to Cipa’s work and not have a mind flooded with potential cinematic imagery. In ‘Senna’s Joy’, the slow build of ascending base notes under repeated patterns in the right hand creates a Nordic aesthetic that sends a breeze through much of the record. Sparing electronics and reverb lend the music a contemporary classical Richter-esque feel, another composer who’s integers out of classical have facilitated worldwide filmic recognition.
With plenty of genres influencing Carlos’ work, there is a tendency towards a middle ground throughout the sympathetic Retronyms listener experience. Underpinning the composer’s work is a design that asked classical musicians to improvise and jazzers to hold the written line. While the music certainly holds up when this buttressing concept is removed, it’s slightly harder to hear where and how the virtues of this approach are shining through. Asking classical musicians to improvise and jazz musicians to suppress their virtuosity is a fun place to start an idea although one can’t help but feel it’s like asking Andy Murray to umpire while the line judges play tennis: it’s an intriguing concept at the expense of individuals playing to their strengths.
Cipa’s work while simplistic in the structural sense would be a fine soundtrack to countless tense but optimistic drama series. ‘And she was’ is straight out of the Einaudi / Michael Nyman playbook —albeit more dextrous— and fans of patiently developing keyboard patterns will find a thoroughly compatible sound world. As the lamenting trumpet fades in ‘Paon’, it’s apparent that Retronyms can also clearly provide a soundtrack for scenes in life (and will no doubt underscore future streamable series as well).
Carlos is touring this album across Europe. The album is out now on Warner Classics and you can listen to it here.