Martin Del Carpio – Involution – Album Review
Truly unique stuff from experimental artist Martin Del Carpio…not all that often that you run into a record that expands through this much terrain, both in sound and depth of the content within. If you read through the write-up on the Involution album, you’ll discover that the music upon it was developed as a form of catharsis after the passing of Martin’s mother, which he describes as his ‘first true loss in life.’ There’s really no mistaking that for anything else other than tragic…you can feel the weight of that emotion in that statement and understand just how much this moment in time has affected him. Like many of you out there, Martin turned to music in his ultimate time of need and immersed himself in the creative process to help deal with the intense situations of the ‘real life’ surrounding him; and also like many of you have experienced, quite often some of our best art is born out of tragedy & turmoil. Bottom line is, he’s found a way to both honor the memory of his mother with an album dedicated to her and a way forward…there’s never complete closure when it comes to this particular scenario, but music & art have the soul soothing ability to make it possible to carry on through the most difficult times. Within an instrumental & spoken-word framework, Involution takes you on an emotional trip.
The sound of a scratched record playing gently cinematic music starts the experience of listening to this album with the graceful, beautiful, & slightly haunting opening “Involution Intro” – which, while it might only be ninety-seconds or so in length, was a sound I felt like I could listen to all day long. In terms of a first impression, “Involution Intro” immediately tips you off as to just how creative and atmospheric this record by Martin Del Carpio could potentially get, and also how satisfying these textures in sounds just may be. As the record spins to a quick mid-song finish and cuts out into its warm fuzzy static, the universe, time & space seem to bend in between the first song and the second as the wildly hypnotic electro rhythm & groove of “Dolphox” takes over. Not only is it a really cool progression from one track to the next to really build on that first impression once the album shifts into full gear from the “Involution Intro” – but c’mon people – this song just POUNDS in all the right ways! A cut that’s built of storming authority in sound and astonishing textures in the music that pop out of the lefts & rights with bold movements and perfect production. The background layers of “Dolphox” in behind the main rhythm play an increasingly involved role as the groove continues and you can hear all kinds of electrified strangeness and natural sounds begin to invade the track more & more as it plays on. I got pretty addicted to the impressively confident repetition of this electro barnstormer – “Dolphox” has a seriously invincible sound to it that’s gigantic, challenging itself to fit its enormity through your speakers.
If you want a real dose of atmosphere and ethereal sound though, look no further than “Phosphorus” – which might very well be one of my favorite instrumental cuts of the year right now. I think…no…I KNOW that this song is absolutely fascinating because I couldn’t take my ears off of it. From the intense vibe of the frequencies & sounds at the beginning to the way that first low piano note comes soaring into the mix, the near whisper the music becomes around the first minute and how faint the sound is – this is as engaging as an experience can get! Remarkably subtle, that significant addition to the song just past the two-minute mark completely hits the mark & gives “Phosphorus” a sparkling, mysterious, bending sound that floats dreamily through the music, getting lost in the song every bit as much as we do. English doesn’t afford me enough adjectives to fully describe just how much I love “Phosphorus” – the dank melodic sound & moody melancholy of the vibe here are seriously electrifying to experience. Once that beat kicks-in around the ninety second mark with the ominous sounds swirling around it, “Phosphorus” makes a serious impact…it’s like the best atmospheres in the Massive Attack catalog. Pensive, thought-provoking, and brilliantly paced – I simply cannot praise this tune enough, it’s amazing.
From there, Involution takes a decidedly artistic turn into something less straight-ahead and more directly conceptual, adding in the spoken-word of Martin into the mix. As a longstanding spoken-word fan myself, for me, I love this kind of stuff. I can understand why the Top-40 crowd doesn’t get it…and of course, no exception to the rule, tracks like “Alma” will prove to be tougher for those looking for verse/chorus/verse – but I’d argue that you should have known from the “Involution Intro” that Pop tunes weren’t going to be what you were in store for when it came to this album. I’ll say this…”Alma” is probably wanders a bit for most on a musical-level and kind of shies away from giving you anything too tangible to hang on to for any length of time…but…I also think that the introduction of the spoken-word element and the strong delivery & content OF those words kind of makes up for that. I like how Martin gives the questioning, observational, and nearly scripture-esque words a clear delivery in the first half of the song and then finds a way to deconstruct this idea as he incorporates more electro-edits, chops, splices, twists and turns before the song is over. I have no illusions about whether or not “Alma” is a harder song for people to get their heads around – of course it is; but I think those that are fans of the spoken-word style & genre, fans of the artistic, fans of music celebrating its ability to be different – you’re the people that will get the most out of this tune. I know, ‘cause I’m one of them – salute!
I’d be interested to know what people think of the less than two-minute long tune “Camera Obscura” – because I felt like this was another seriously genius track on Involution. That being said, the reason I’m interested in what people might think, is because I find it as creepy as it gets! But religion is quite often creepy to me, as it is to many other people out there in the right context – that’s why horror movies incorporate themes like these into their visuals and scripts & have for years – because it can be downright scary. I felt myself haunted by the whispered vocals and ‘hail Marys’ in the vocals – but then I started to ask myself, ‘is that just because of my own perception, feelings, and thoughts towards religion?’ How would other people hear this tune? Would they find “Camera Obscura” somehow comforting? And I started to be able to hear this short song from what seemed like another angle entirely all of a sudden…the haunting vibes turned into inviting and somehow familiar ones that were more than welcoming to listen to. “Camera Obscura” is like the thoughts of the sincerely desperate and in-need echoing throughout your head…but I think because of just how many repetitions, echoes, and layers there are, you really don’t feel ‘alone’ in listening to this tune so much as surrounded by voices. The music involved is so remarkably subtle you’ll almost hardly even know it’s there…but MAN does it play a role…just enough melody sparkling in the distance, like unique chimes in the wind ten miles away.
I’m a bit more on the fence with “Say A Prayer” – for all the remarkably smooth & meditative qualities in the music, the cadence to the lyrics felt a bit jarring by comparison. Don’t get me wrong, Martin’s expressing his thoughts in an unfiltered way that I think can be appreciated…and I don’t think words always necessarily have to rhyme from line to line, but quite often when they don’t it can be a noticeable thing and I think that plays a factor in this particular tune. So on a poetic-level, I dig it…as art, I can get behind it…as a song to repeat, I felt it was always much harder to say. Couple of questionable tones and a few lines where I wasn’t quite as sure that the energy quite lined up with the intentions and ambitions of this tune; I dig the tributary nature of the lyricism and respect the words show for the emotion in the writing…I like that shift just prior to the two-minute mark and kind of wish we got a bit more of the magic that this spot provides a bit earlier on & perhaps for longer. Martin sings the word ‘strange’ multiple times throughout “Say A Prayer” and I kind of felt like that summed up my feelings.
He corrects course quickly with the wicked muted back-alley rhythm & groove of “Witchery.” I swear it’s not just me – Martin’s subtly experimenting with both volume and sound choice, and the results are absolutely magnificent to listen to. You can hear how things slowly fade just a bit or come back more prevalently into the mix without ever fully going away or dominating the sound, just a fabric or thread of flexibility that adds so much to the experience. “Witchery” was a serious highlight on Involution as far as my ears were concerned…one of those tracks that’s so strong that just by the time you feel like you’re right into it, it’s over already! From the haunting and mysterious beginning it has, to the tight beat that kicks-in around the twenty-five second mark, the immaculate ideas, textures, and sounds roaming through the background – the first ninety seconds of this tune are exceptionally captivating and gripping – quite honestly, I didn’t expect “Witchery” to go on to do anything more than it was already doing – and I would have been completely fine with that. SOMEHOW – Martin finds a way to subtly shift this track in such a blissfully fresh & melodic way with the most gentle touch…it’ll leave you breathless. I really couldn’t get over how what seemed to be almost a simplistic and minor change becomes such a centerpiece of the entire sound and song…it’s “Witchery” alright, if not downright musical sorcery. The man has an extraordinary ear for sound and how to make it stand-out…”Witchery” is a perfect example.
I felt like “November (Black Rose)” added a lot more of what I felt was missing from “Say A Prayer.” Different concepts, different songs, different approaches – I get it, but the point is still a valid one; the average listener has a lot more to hang onto here to stay with the words Martin is singing. The melody is tangible & beautiful – and in my opinion, there’s almost no comparison when it comes to Martin’s vocals on this tune verses any other – he’s singing this one right from the heart and really making that effort to get the words, emotion, and feeling across as clearly as possible, and he succeeds greatly here. I think the imagery in the lyrics is strong, I like the bold tones of his voice and the sincerity you can hear attached to each word; I like that it’s still entirely poetic in style and highly expressive. I think the music is likely some of the most compelling you’ll find on this whole record…absolutely a highlight for me from pretty much every angle I held this track up to examine it from. Martin sings a gorgeously descriptive & sad tale, not without hope and light, but undeniably heavy in its emotion; I think the contrast between the vocals and music is spot-on perfection and the energy of every single line fit the mood insightfully. While it might be forlorn, sad, melancholy, or at the very least, distant at times…the scope of the beauty of “November (Black Rose)” knows no bounds…this is an exceptional moment in time & gorgeous tune.
Involution continues towards the end with “I Only Want You To Love Me (Letter To The Father)” – which is quite the original & personal tune really. Spoken-word, poetic as ever, and adding brilliant production values into the mix – Martin sounds captivating as he speaks the narrative driving this tune. Minimalist in the music but completely wild in what it contributes to this entire vibe, as subtle as “I Only Want You To Love Me (Letter To The Father)” may actually be, feel, or sound – there’s actually quite a bit of innovation going on throughout its slow mysterious & curious crawl. As much as I dig the words and the way that Martin delivers them – I kept coming back to the incredible production on this tune and the way so many different sounds seemed to pop up along the journey, providing these sonic elements that seemed so impossible to duplicate…and it made me pretty much wish I could clone Martin into 1000 more Martins…just so I could get a whole lot more artistic music like this into our world. I love the distance in between the music and the words, I love the editing on Martin’s vocals, I love the sparse choice of sounds in the music on “I Only Want You To Love Me (Letter To The Father)” and how it allowed for each element that was being used to come through so impressively vibrant & lively to hear.
The final track “Ashes” rests completely on Martin’s shoulders to make its impact, with only his vocal melodies a cappella and a hint of static to finish off the Involution set of songs. I think…look…I think it’s an honorable goodbye and a well-sung performance by Del Carpio…I think it’s impossible not to hear the impact of his mother’s passing and the role that plays in this final moment on the record. I suppose the question becomes, did Martin create this song for us, or for himself…and I honestly think the answer is fairly clear when it comes to “Ashes.” Nothing wrong with the choice he’s made – but there’s definitely a specific audience for a track like this…an audience of one that ultimately understands the exact emotions and reasons why it’s been written…a form of healing that applies directly to its creator. As for the rest of us, I think he’s still given us a highly unique ending to what’s been quite an emotional adventure and substantial departure from the rest of what’s out there right now…and there’s merit in that too. And don’t get me wrong – even IF this last particular tune is written specifically as part of his own healing process, there’s complete value in that too…like I said at the very beginning of this review – he’ll never fully leave the memories behind, but he will find a way to move on and function. Songs like “Ashes” are what make those next steps even possible…to get there, you have to go through this first.
Definitely seems like Martin Del Carpio will always have something incredible to offer the ears…and in times of loss, it’s important to remember just how much an artist like this contributes to the world by doing what he does. I look forward to hearing what he’ll come up with next now that he’s brought what closure he can to this particular chapter…the man deserves some peace of mind & soul after this powerfully emotional investment…and I truly hope he finds it – through new music, of course.
Find out more about Martin Del Carpio at his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/martindelcarpiomusic
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