Factor Burzaco is based out of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is primarily the project of composer and founder Abel Gilbert. Outside of Gilbert, only vocalist Carolina Restuccia seems to be a regular in the ever-changing line-up of the group across their earlier releases: The band is shown as Pedro Chalkho (guitars), Facundo Negri (drums and percussion), and last but not least Carlos Eduardo Quebrada Vásquez (bass). Additional guest musicians appearing are Rosa Nelly (baritone and soprano saxophone), Martin Proscia (alto and tenor saxophone), Sergio Catalan (flute), Luciano Giambastiani (clarinet), Sebastian Preit (keyboard), Jacopa Costa (marimba), and Manuel Alvarez (voice on Arnoldturro). They very graciously give credit to Daniel Hernandez who is their sound man and engineer as a full band member. More groups should do this! This band falls squarely into the category of RIO / avant-garde, and as a fan of this genre, I was quite excited to explore a new world that I had not before been taken to. What I had not expected was the lack of breathable air in this new realm.
The opening track almost serves as a warning; this is a difficult album to listen to. The vocals are child-like and awkward. I immediately found myself wishing there were no vocalists at all. The musicians are highly skilled, but here Ms. Restuccia's vocals just didn't fit my tastes at all, and without trying to sound unkind, I felt strongly as if there might be an alien mosquito in the room as I listened. In her defence, I honestly didn't know a human voice could do that. It seems to be common recently that many RIO / avant-garde groups these days feature female vocalists, and many of them squeak and squeal and just outright bend my ear. I am convinced it is intentional, and is even becoming conventional (if such a word applies to anything in this realm), and is perhaps going to be a decisive division point for many would-be fans.
This album is nearly impossible to describe. It seldom gains focus, and in that I find yet another difficulty. As much as I enjoy the unexpected, I have come to understand that development of a theme does matter to me, even if for a short period. The closer to randomness the music gets, the tougher to listen to it becomes, even for a self-professed open-minded listener. I react similarly to free-form jazz, finding myself wanting to quickly change the channel or turn it off. On the times that they did settle a bit I was able to draw comparisons to much beloved groups such as King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Henry Cow, and even a taste of Heldon appeared briefly. Had any of these been explored a bit more in depth I probably would have really warmed up pretty quickly as again I must emphasize how truly impressive the musicians are in Factor Burzaco. However, at the end of the album I was left feeling cheated through the entire journey. The album started nowhere, and that is exactly where I was dumped when the final track ended.
That said, if you are a listener who enjoys music that lacks structure, this album is for you. I have no doubts that this was the goal here, and the group has fully succeeded in creating a musically complex abstraction of the highest calibre. Fans of composer Edgard Varese, this is for you! I had difficulty settling on a star rating because on one hand I did not enjoy it as a listener, but I also accept that for fans of this style they are probably quite well received as the musicianship is top-rate. I tend to suspect they would enjoy further popularity with a different vocalist, and with their consistently revolving door perhaps that will happen, but given the choice of style they play I somehow doubt if popularity is ever a consideration here.
** Thomas Rhymer
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