Recently created Guatemalan label Identidata is extremely proud to present Sacratávica, the very first collected survey of Joaquín Orellana’s compositions. With a career spanning over 50 years of activity across contemporary art, performance, theater and sound art, Orellana is a highly singular figure in Guatamalan culture. Often considered to be the sole avant-garde composer in the country, his work has a deeply interdisciplinary quality. Most of his music was created using an orchestra of his self-built instruments, also known as Útiles Sonoros. Sitting at the border of sculpture, sound installation and musical instrument, these Útiles Sonoros, which he’s been building and developing since the late ‘60s, are at the center of his artistic activity.
Aside the obvious formal aspect, his compositions also have a strong political message, while being deeply rooted in Guatemalan history, folklore and various identities, both indigenous and modern. Playful opener »Híbrido a presión« was one of the first of his compositions to be performed entirely using the Útiles Sonoros. However, due to its technical complexity the piece was seldom reproduced, except for a later staging that Orellana directed in Louisville, Kentucky. »Ramajes«(1984), initially titled »Evocación profunda y ramajes de una marimba« , tracks the many incarnations of the marimba across history, before reaching its final form as one of Orellana’s instruments by combining vibrational percussion with melody and poetry fragments.
The title track, »Sacratávica«, represents one of the most ambitious and emotionally charged pieces from the album. An expansive 22 minute composition mixing textures that mimick field recordings and multi-layered vocal melodies culminating in choral catharsis, »Sacratávica« deals in baroque maximalism without ever feeling cluttered. For the casual listener, the track immediately stands out, not only because of the moving vocal layered harmonies, but also through its epic scale and strong sonic narrative. Dubbed »Las voces del Rio Negro«, the piece references the massacres that took place in Coban during a period where the army massacred numerous towns, throwing the bodies in the nearby Rio Negro (the Black River).
Final track, »Fantoidea«, a glistening, metallic ambient improvisation, was a reimagining of Disney’s Fantasia using Paul Dukas’s »The Sorcerer's Apprentice« as inspiration.