Roger Goula

(Cognitive Shift)


Art reminds us of the things we take for granted. It is one of the most elemental and essential functions it plays in our lives, and Spanish composer Roger Goula understands this. For his second studio album Ecosystems, and his first since scoring the Oscar-nominated documentary film All That Breathes, Goula takes it upon himself to remind us that beyond our daily stresses and struggles, our strained relationships and bad habits, our insecurities and our insufficiencies, we each are overlooking the thing that should keep us in constant awe: we are here and it is now.

Ecosystems explores life and how it sustains itself. From the opener ‘Gift’, in which the literal ultrasound recording of Goula’s unborn child forms the pulsing backbeat, we hear an embryonic sound build, tethered and blinking at first, emerging nervously, but with growing strides as the piece progresses.

A strangely stark and icy digital landscape envelops ‘Symbiosis’, and at times this newborn record seems to have been thrust into a hostile world. Along with ‘Broken Harmony’, it is as if we can hear two competing forces attempting to combine – the harshness and the beauty, the classical and the electronic, the natural and the unnatural. Discordance threatens to win out, piano notes and hushed, dreamy atmospherics being terrorised by sharp sheets of dissonant electronic noise, as if to represent man’s toys scorching the pristine land.

And then, with ‘Perfect Balance’, we get the sense that the fusion has taken hold and harmony breaks out. The acoustic and the electronic become indivisible, to the extent that we can start to think we only hear field recordings of nature herself. Be it synthpads, strings or samplers, these sounds sway in the wind together, they rise and fall as one. For brief moments in Goula’s hands, we remember to notice the majesty of the most simple things.

‘Relational Beings’ is thick with textural heft, presenting a dense fog of primordial digital action, as if we now focus not on individuals, but on the entire compendium of life on our planet. It reminds us of the perilous, delicate balance that holds it all in place – one false move, one foolish, industrially-pollutive mistake, and it could all come tumbling down.

‘Everything is in Everything’ is a full-thrust, exhilarating, pulsating drama that presents life at its best, before ‘Becoming One’ returns us to the dignity of the individual. From gaping wonder to awesome might, through existential threat and back to wonder again, all life truly does live somewhere in this album.