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Insight: Hippocratic sound fantasies in ‘Máscara’ by Sculptures

Text by Meritxell Rosell

Máscara, Sculptures (Eclectic Reactions, 2022). Artwork by Stephen McLaughlin.

In the quest to explore and understand his own creativity, Sculptures (aka Jacobo García) turns his sight to the classic world to present an album conceptualised on ancient Hippocratic theories and a meticulous, almost medieval craft. 

This turn to the classic world is something we have been observing in the last few years, to the extent that a new Renaissance (or Renaisane 3.0 as some are calling it) is setting ground in the art spheres. Artists are revisiting ideas, theories, methods and techniques with our post-contemporary lens and new technologies. 

Máscara (Eclectic Reactions, 2023), the just-released conceptual debut album of Jacobo García as Sculptures, takes inspiration from the Hippocratic theory of humours while reflecting on artistic exposure. The theory of humours is a system of medicine used by ancient Greek physicians and Philosophers. This system develops along four body fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile, which are linked to behavioural patterns. Depending on the delicate balance of bodily fluids, the following behaviours appear: phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine and melancholic. The fluids are catalysts. According to the theory, humours associate with parts of the face, which are the four songs of the record: tongue (Lengua), eyes (Ojos), cheekbones (Pómulo), and mouth (Boca).

Jacobo García, who is an artist, curator, writer, producer and DJ originally from Madrid and now based in Barcelona, tells us that he didn’t think much of the creative process before starting the album: My process is based on adding things until I’m happy with that work block, and it makes sense to me. Then I begin to remove and polish until I’m satisfied with the final result, which is pretty similar to having a block of clay and removing stuff, hence the name Sculptures.

Sonically wise, García shares he employed a patchwork of techniques. From field recordings that he captures in an old microcassette (for this album, he used some old ones from a trip to Greece), to 303s used in an ambient context, layers of synths that create thick sound textures, a couple of pretty patent ASMR voices stolen from Youtube clips, and shhh… secret… there’s even a hidden, not so hidden Led Zeppelin sample. The song titles and the cover enable Sculptures to juxtapose the coldness of the music with the physicality and warmth of the human body.

With Máscara, he continues, he wanted to explore sound collages and mix different things: I love to use mistakes and randomness as creative inputs, and I always leave space for those. I have a punk standpoint regarding music production, I’m primarily self-taught, and the extremely technical aspects drag me down. The 4 tracks are more than 9 minutes longer. Mixing these really long tracks was challenging.

When asked how the Hippocratic theory of humors embodies the ideas he wanted to express with his music, the artist mentions that creatives (and people in general) are increasingly looking back to the classical world in search of ideas. He believes it has something to do with cultural appropriation but also with the need to find genuinely fresh ideas. He cites a clear example at last year’s Unsound, where many classically trained musicians performed, albeit in contemporary, electronic setups.

I was drawn to the humoral theory because it is entirely symmetrical, 4 humours, 4 behaviours, 4 seasons of the year, and 4 parts of the face. Also, because the music is released on a cassette, it has two sides: lighter and darker. The whole symmetry thing is around the production. Of course, the theory by current medical standards is pure nonsense, but it provides a great vehicle to present the music and, more specifically, me as a “first album” artist. 

Further, what Sculptures creates with Máscara is a new narrative entity when the humours are interpreted as parts of the face. This entity embodies the whole concept and provides a suitable closure: the mask (Máscara) is used by the artist to expose and develop himself as a one -in conversation with other artists- and as a human being. 

That narrative links the artist with his formative and artistic development process and attempts to answer these eternal questions: What makes an artist? How to become one? Talking about this, Garcia expands on the fact that a debut album is a culmination of a long foundational process, an artistic coming of age: It has to do with exposing yourself as an artist and finding a vehicle for doing it. In that sense, the record contains a double metaphor. Also, it goes deeper into my personal story; when I started socialising in creative circles, I wasn’t doing very well. Nobody mentions that, but it is a big part of artistic life nowadays, the specific way you network. So I also developed my mask. That mask doesn’t mean that I am not myself; I had long internal debates on how to survive that jungle but being true to myself. 

The artist also agrees that his relationship with artistry or “the máscara” changed throughout the production because it’s a process of believing in yourself, being able to expose yourself, and trusting yourself and the art you create, no matter the reaction of the audience. And this is true for any artist. You make art for yourself, but we all have an ego, and we want our art to permeate people, and we are scared of showing that part to people and not succeeding. Then, of course, you achieve your goals and some recognition after some time, and then you feel more comfortable with the exposition.

When asked about being a Spanish artist and what’s it’s currently occurring in the Spanish experimental scene, García comments that the Spanish scene is rich and full of talent, albeit it needs more professionalism, promotional skills and foreign media attention. Still, if you dig, you’ll find so much amazing music. He recommends a fantastic new record named Cluster I by Mioclono, which are Arnau Obiols and Oriol Riverola (aka John Talabot); it’s very kraut, with some acid lines and beautiful percussions. Another excellent record recently released is called Lepok by Joseba Agirrezabalaga & Mikel Vega. It’s improvisational with guitar, but experimental, fresh and innovative, and quite far away from what is trendy on the so-called experimental scene. In the future, he’d love to experiment with the concept of “Mediterranean Ambient”.

And a cheeky last question to finish up with, what was the humour or behaviour he enjoyed the most working with? Lengua (Tongue), definitely! Because it is so human, it’s an organ that is inside our mouth. Tongues are used for taste but also for sex; they’re humid and warm. Love and sex many times are opposite to rationality which we tend to consider a cold thing. Interestingly the greeks didn’t think of saliva as a humour. The whole record tries to juxtapose the physicality and warmth of the human body with the coldness of electronic ambient music.

(Image courtesy of the artists)
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