Album Review: Federico Durand - La Niña Junco

I doubt that anyone is having a more prolific 2017 than Argentinian ambient composer and performer Federico Durand. Beginning with a promotional tour EP, and a collaborative album, Durand has returned with his first full length of the year—La Niña Junco, or roughly translated, The Junco Girl, arrives on vinyl via the ambient label 12k.

The interesting thing about all of these Durand releases is that they are all familiar (unmistakably his work) but they are all unique enough in showing off the many facets and layers to his compositions. La Niña Junco finds Durand working within incredibly strict confines—limiting himself to a Crumar synthesizer, two looping pedals, and Roland Space Echo RE-201. In the press materials regarding the album’s background, Durand explains the Crumar was his first synthesizer, which he then lent to a friend many years ago, and it eventually found its way back to him.

“Small music” is one relatively easy and rudimentary way to describe what Durand commonly does, and here, he himself refers to the album’s work as “small melodies”—and throughout the album’s nine compositions, he constructs very concise, hypnotic, and evocative pieces that do what all successful ambient music does—stir up an emotional response.

As one could probably anticipate, a sensation of bittersweet nostalgia runs throughout Junco; partially due to just the genre itself, but mostly thanks in part to Durand’s usage of a rather antiquated, at times chintzy, sounding instrument.  There is a fuzzy warmth to almost every piece, and an odd, fragile beauty that makes it a compelling listening experience. That hypnotic swirling it is all so easy to get caught up in is best exemplified in pieces like “Navidad en el bosque,” which for roughly six minutes, gently circles around you, subtly luring you into its cascading waves of cheap and broken sounding synthesizer tones; meanwhile, a charming piece like “Rondel,” quietly bubbles and churns.

It should also be expected that there is also room for somber, reflective contemplation on Junco; with “El cascabel de plata,” Durand crafts a pensive, slow motion soundscape that teeters into becoming mournful, but never quite crosses that line.

Thought provoking and meditative, La Niña Junco is another success for Federico Durand. Through specific boundaries, he still manages to create innovative and imaginative textures that make this record a compelling and essential listen.

La Niña Junco is out now via 12k.