Pepo Galán does not think much of the current state of the world. He’s built his latest album, Human Values Disappear, on a metaphor where the world is a slowly sinking ship, its passengers (the residents of this world) ignorant to the destructive passivity that will one day likely lead to their demise. As someone who has made efforts to remain free thinking and conscientious, I cannot help but stand in Galán’s corner here. The human race has come so far, but shed many of its values along the way. Even more apropos is the timing of this sentiment, in that nearing the holidays one needs to wear their apathy like kevlar to stave off what Galán describes as (among other things) a diluting of our capacity for communication, commitment, and self-sacrifice. Fine, the holidays are also about charity and family, but one shouldn’t overlook the alarming duality of human nature. This time of year just makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside.
Luckily, the thoughtful art of those like Pepo Galán exists to bring some balance back into this world. Here he teams up with like-minded stalwarts Lee Yi and David Cordero to produce a tasteful collection of grit-infused ambient music. Coupling favourably with Yi’s latest album, Galán’s Human Values Disappear, too, is deceptively complex. The album’s tracks weave finely-spun electronics with somber casiotone arrangement, but its cinematic grandeur is worn like a veil over a rusty undercarriage; a coffin enrobed in Christmas lights; a dilapidated house with a fresh coat of paint. As might be expected, Yi’s contributions to two tracks amplifies Galán’s grit to a palpable noise, the duo’s arpeggiated alchemy having me nostalgic for Tim Hecker’s Harmony in Ultraviolet (if only to hear that album for the first time again, sigh).
The album works best on tracks like “Old Testament (Feat. David Cordero),” where the textures glide over one another to create a perpetual river of sound. So easily is one able to fall into the current of these songs, caught in the lure of stretched and tattered chords and slippages of one resplendent sound into another. Like the image that adorns the album’s cover, the treated layers seamlessly intertwine to form a metaphysical soundscape freed from its constituent parts. It is interesting to try to trace the individual layers of sound as they are introduced, and doing so gives the listener a heightened awareness of the music’s mass. Soon after it’s best to let go of this investigation all together, and to momentarily set aside the loathing of our world to let the music of Pepo Galán take you under its spell.