Conrado Isasa came to love the music that fell under the genre umbrella of American Primitive (an absolute misnomer in our modern age) later than most. He came of musical age in his native Spain playing hardcore punk and post-rock. Then he heard a Mississippi John Hurt song performed by Geoff Farina and his interests shifted toward the deep well of folk and blues artists who wrench a world of emotion out of an acoustic guitar.
His work since then, on albums like Las Cosas and Los Dias, were the sound of Isasa finding his voice in this world. He was seeking to find a way to fully enmesh the music he made in groups like A Room With A View, which trucked in open-ended, psychedelic improvisation, with his obsession with the work of icons like John Fahey and Robbie Basho. On Isasa’s latest album Insilio, he has found that center.
He still wears his new influences openly within the tracklisting of this lovely, imaginative album on the delicate and charmingly squeaky track “Copla para John Fahey” (“Couplet For John Fahey”). But what flows underneath his finger-picked melodies are a quiet gales of drones. It adds a measure of unease to the track, like a dull nausea that lingers during the second or third day at sea. Isasa dots the landscape of Insilio with other such touches, which widen the scope of his playing considerably. The closing track “El mejor lugar del mundo” is augmented by some glassy notes played on a vibraphone, and the sitar-like squiggles of the guitar is met with the gush of a harmonium.
Isasa’s experience as a musician comes most readily into play in the way he leaves so much open space in most of the tracks on Insilio. Outside of the rambling “Arquitecto tenista” and the lovely splay of the opening track “Homenaje a Cataluña,” the songs are marked with small or large pockets of silence where the notes from his guitar can linger and decay and the listener can let a moment sink in their system. On those tracks when that open air gives way to the dense finger-picked array, as with his two odes to the barrios of Montevideo, Uruguay, those moments feel like a warm, unexpected spring rain shower. The effect, which nicely sums up the album as a whole, is pleasant and whirling.