Archive for July 21st, 2021

Harley Cortez – An Inventory of Memory: Volume II

AnInventoryIf we were only to focus on Harley Cortez’s forthcoming second chapter in his four-album “An Inventory of Memory” recording series, it would be like having a phone conversation with someone with spotty cell service that allows you to hear every fourth word. The Los Angeles-based musician turned painter, filmmaker and writer utilizes the full scope of his artistic gifts to communicate his messages and themes. Set to release “An Inventory of Memory: Vol. II” on August 13, Cortez’s examination of genetic memory has been the muse of his multidisciplinary art for several years, but this musical exploration delves deeply into loss and how to process it after the passing of his mother and nephew with the goal of turning loss into beauty.      

The evocative, cinematic music Cortez composed for “An Inventory of Memory: Vol. II” is indeed beautiful. He wrote and performed the eight Avant-classical tracks that he brought to life with the aid of accompaniment by Modeste Colban on flute and saxophone, violinist Andy Baldwin and Nancy Kuo’s (Janelle Monae) strings.

The album opens with the minimalist “Metaphors,” a soothing, electronic vibrational mantra. The gentle piano cadence on “Y” and its gorgeous melody intimately convey raw emotion, planting the seed of renewal and the blossoming of hope in its radiance and simplicity. “How We Become Butterflies” is transcendental, nurtured by airy piano passages, a plunging upright bass line, and gentle dancing upon a ride cymbal. A string quartet illumines “Be Still,” turning it into a sweeping, emotionally poignant meditation. A somber majesty reigns on the contemplative “Seven Mountains” while “After the Tz’utujil Ceremony in Atitlan” includes an audio sample from a Mayan tribe recorded in Cortez’s mother’s native Guatemala. A serene interlude, “Selected Memories” feels transitional, offering comfort and optimism. The recording closes with a “How We Become Butterflies” (Reprise) on which Colban’s moody saxophone plunges to vaster depths than on the original.    

“After a hard year of many losses, I decided to resume finishing these albums. The thing I realized is that we all experience loss in some form, but it’s a whole other thing to create beauty from it. I suppose the job of the artist is to be the vessel, one that the traumatic experience can filter beauty from,” said Cortez, who has exhibitions of his paintings and sculptures opening in Mexico City at the Museo Tamayo in October and at another venue (to be announced) in the same city in November.

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