Mateo Kingman’s ‘Astro’ – review

Soft electro chords, stellar echoes, playfulness and cosmic beats form the spine of Mateo Kingman’s second album, Astro.

The record opens with “Umbral” (‘beginning’ or ‘threshold’, in English) and it feels as though this is more of a natural dawn, a sunrise, rather than simply the first track of an album.

“Lucero” (‘star’ in English) calls to mind the auroras of the northern and southern hemispheres and floats and reflects along, as opposed to mundanely following a set, three-minute form. He focuses on drifting music, considering spirituality and greater themes, of how music and the wider universe understand and inform each other.

Three singles have been released from the album, “Tejidos” (‘textures’, in English), “Religar” (‘re-bind’ or ‘re-tie’) and “Último Aliento” (‘last breath’). In the video for “Tejidos”, we get a sense of the serpentine, other-worldly, mesmerising cosmic flow that emanates from much of the album.

The protection of and connection with the environment is critical for Kingman, who promotes the celebration of indigenous peoples in his home country, Ecuador.

In his social media and now also in this new release he drives links to the rich variety of Ecuadorian nature, from the swells of the Pacific, through the 6,000m peaks of the Andes, to the mystery and interconnectedness of the Amazon.

But it is not all celestial contemplation.

There is a pleasing drop three minutes deep in “Astro”, there is the urban riff and hip-hop of “IO”, and the chilled electro of “Religar”.

It is a playful, beautiful album that seems to strive for more than the banalities of regular ‘cosmic intrigue’ records.

A good summary comes from Kingman himself, whose description of “Tejidos” could be expanded to describe the whole album. He says it is “a dialogue between the traveller and the snakes/vehicles of the universe”.

Jardin’s ‘Maqui de Hierro’ – review

The re-released record from Peruvian duo Jardín is better described as a scientific experiment in musical form.

The themes of hypnosis, confusion and sonic discovery run through this album like an electrical current. Stressful, at times perplexing; it is a fascinating aural test.

The issues of nature are present – the complexity of the natural world? The horror reality of nature versus the fairytale elements? The title Maqui de Hierro literally means ‘hands of iron’ [maqui is the Quechua word for ‘hands’]. But larger topics are present, too, and it feels at times as though you move with the artists away from Earth, exploring deeper realms.

The song titles increase the sense of mystery surrounding this percussion-heavy and split-bit repetition, with swirling, darkened names such as “Serpientes de Humo” and “Perfume de Ceniza”.

Maqui de Hierro is not a regular dinner party soundtrack, serving better those looking to re-discover experimental sounds from Peru. The album was originally released on cassette and it is pleasing to see music from nearly 15 years ago repurposed for a new audience.

This article first appeared in Sounds and Colours