Composer / guitarist Isasa has long been a fixture of Madrid’s underground music scene. A former member of hardcore band Down for the Count, and then A Room With A View the artist has a reputation for working with a certain palette that smudges genre, constructs certain routes, and brings surprise. His latest album, continuing his solo path, is called Insilio. Like everything else the artist has offered it’s hard to pigeonhole.
Entirely instrumental, the ten tracks of Insilio offer a hybrid of meditative, and active pieces. Played, for the main on classic, Spanish guitar, Isasa is accompanied in parts by droning, Arabic, and Indian instruments. A hero of Isasa is name-checked in the track “Copla papa John Fahey”, and it’s not the only place here that Fahey’s influence is felt.
Whilst easy to point at the shapes of the American fingerstyle guitarist throughout the album, there are other folk, and traditional influences here. Isasa doesn’t draw only from one perspective, and so the results are authentic, contemporary, but also without easy DNA or timecode.
Typically, solo instrumental albums can produce a feeling of isolationism, or overtly precious reflection – oftentimes the very point is to have singular focus on the experience of an individual voice. However, Isasa isn’t removed from the everyday, there’s nothing rarified here. He is informed by integration and he seeks to place these tunes back in location. Across the album he submerges himself in the everyday. ‘Conversaciones en un Supermercado’ is connective, active, and twinged with sadness – a cursory encounter in a public place. ‘Cuesta Ramón’ is weighed with the price of involvement in life.
Insilio is an album that quietly leads. It’s an after, after-party delicacy that has enough body and strength to sustain. Neither folk, not classical, there is a pleasing sense of the avant-garde. Not through self-conscious obscurity or an assembly of hard progressions, but through taking the lead into new associations, and the echos of tradition that resonate around each other. At times challenging, and frequently breathtaking – it’s a beautiful, unassuming album that possesses the ability to bring rare and genuine calm.