Guido Gamboa transforms everyday sounds into haunting atmospheres on A Droll | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Guido Gamboa transforms everyday sounds into haunting atmospheres on A Droll


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For the past few years, Chicagoan Guido Gamboa has been one of the city’s best purveyors of experimental music, though too few people have noticed. He launched his record label, Pentiments, in December 2015 with the release of his debut solo album, Saturday’s Notes, a collage of field recordings and electronics expertly arranged to render familiar sounds (car horns, camera shutters) enigmatic and beguiling. His second album, 2018 (Regional Bears), is more austere, and his new third LP, A Droll (Pentiments), further refines his sonic mischief. The record begins by placing the listener in the sonic equivalent of a dilapidated carnival—indistinct chatter and clanging accompanies warped but playful melodies. This abruptly changes to the sounds of strong wind and quiet tapping, which build into a massive, dense fog. As vivid as the moods may be, though, Gamboa doesn’t overwhelm the listener so much as provoke unease and curiosity. That becomes more clear as the album progresses: a melange of animal noises and creaking metal conjures an off-putting queasiness, intensified soon thereafter by the unsettling sound of obviously forced laughter. A Droll continues down this path, sounding normal on the surface but increasingly cryptic and befuddling as you sit with it—listening to it feels like watching a horror film where suspiciously nice townspeople give off an ominous sense of wrongness by the light of day. Gamboa never descends into straight-up terror, though; he doesn’t let the sun set and turn his village into a den of monsters. He knows it’s more fun to simply tantalize.   v

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