Paco Sala Paco SalaRo-Me-Ro
Paco Sala sounds like the name of a player from the Spanish handball team, a session musician for dodgy jazz bands, or the guy at the gas station; it's a normal, grey name, and it’s anybody’s guess why Antony Harrison ( glitchtarist in the Konntinent project, a regular on labels like Hibernate, Sonic Pieces and Home Normal) chose it to identify his new project, which is as cottony as the one he's been working on since 2008, only more pop. “Ro-Me-Ro” is not the first recording Harrison has delivered under the name Paco Sala. In early 2011 he released a 40-minute tape, “Radial Sundown”, also on Digitalis, featuring poetess Felicia Atkinson on “Tous Les Oranges”, but this is the record on which he definitely establishes his sound. It's not likely Paco Sala will replace Konntinent as Harrison's main creative outlet (mostly because the Konntinent material is quicker to make, as it's more ambient), but if there's one possibility to expand his fan base, it's this incursion in the dream-like realm on the outer limits of pop.
Paco Sala isn't an individual project. Harrison is occasionally accompanied by vocalist Leyli, who possesses one of those elf-like, beatific voices that, in these days of bedazzlement by the magic of Julia Holter, Grouper and Motion Sickness Of Time Travel, are most welcome, and what they do together sounds like something that could come from the studios of Hype Williams if they were to experiment with dream-pop. Which means the sonic substance of “Ro-Me-Ro” is volatile, unstable and hard to capture; it's spread out over the 40 minutes on this vinyl like a distant rumour, like a rumble coming from different sources which take a pleasant shape in the mix, though, rather than the thick, mysterious mist the slippery Hyperdub-signed duo produce. Their working strategies are similar, but the results are quite different: Harrison takes the raw material (manipulated guitars, samples of unclear origins, real-time modulated ambient samples, the odd furtive beat) and gives them an intuitive shape, as if he were organising the colours in a Fauvist painting. Yes, there is a link with less cryptic pop on pieces such as “Spiral” and “Tre’s Future First”, reminiscent of both old-school 4AD and Morr Music, somewhere between shoegaze and indietronica, but it's a circumstantial kind of pop, built from Leyli's voice, which creates some order in the chaos. But when Leyli isn't there, Harrison immediately starts drifting in an oceanic landscape of sensations, smells and impressions that he picks up in the final sound. Just like Hype Williams is a grinder picking up and spitting out different influences, from psychedelics to dub, turning them into a sonic porridge where, although it's nutritious, the ingredients seem mixed without any measure or specific reason, Paco Sala manage the same result with the opposite effect: it draws you in instead of confusing you.
“Ro-Me-Ro” runs the risk of being qualified as a light album, as just another new age effort disguised as hypnagogic pop, or as an auditory massage arranged with some beautiful voices here and there. It's a real risk, because, in a final effort that is possibly harder to perceive than it seems to be at first sight, Harrison knows how to control the great waves of chaos and chance included in this process. There are moments, like “Legacy Edition”, with its almost trip-hop beat and those blasts of heavenly electronica, when the songs of “Ro-Me-Ro” threaten to take a conventional shape, apt for elevator music, but most of the time the music circulates confused and with no direction, allowing for vague impressions of happiness, abandonment and detachment from reality. Paco Sala don't close any circles, maybe because there's no circle to close and that mix of vagueness and ambiguity is exactly what they're going for. Or, as I said before, the same thing as Hype Williams but on the other side of the mirror, changing the big marihuana joints for fresh fruit, the psychedelic nightmares for lucid dreams, and deformed pop for pop without a specific shape. This record is a nice surprise that brings the feeling with it that this is not the last time we'll hear of Paco Sala, and that next time it will be even better.