Anthony Ocaña & Nelson Ricart-Guerrero: In Trance (La Luna o los Ritos del Amor)

Karl Ackermann By

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Composer and multi-instrumentalist, Anthony Ocaña has released a most unusual album with his In Trance. Ocaña has been actively pursuing a life in music since the age of five. The Dominican Republic native—now a resident of Madrid, Spain—switched from piano to guitar at an early age and was opening for pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba at the age of nineteen and later opening for multi-instrumentalist Egberto Gismonti. Though largely unknown in the US, this is Ocaña's sixth recording as a leader and likely to generate wider awareness.

In Trance consists of six compositions and a lengthy poem augmented by acoustic guitar. Ocaña wrote the pieces over a two year period beginning in 2012 with the intention of having most formatted as acoustic guitar, wordless vocals and loops. "Ritos" and "La Última Cena de Rita" were initially intended for chamber group performances. Ocaña modified and adapted his original vision and ultimately played all the instruments with the exception of some electric guitar and background vocals from Gorka Capel.

"Ritos" has a distinct Caribbean flavor augmented with some of electronics while the wordless vocals of "In Trance 1" supplement Ocaña's acoustic guitar. "In Trance 2" alternates between warm acoustics and percussive effects and ends as a discordant manipulation of further electrified vocalizations. He utilizes lesser known percussion instruments from the Dominican Republic, such as the guira, darbuka and canoas, to add striking dimensions to the music. "Fabrica de Suenos" adds even more layers both vocally and instrumentally as Ocaña uses the synthesizer to add more percussion and doubles guitar bass lines with electronic bass for additional clout.

On "Tu Sombra," the acoustic guitar and subdued electronic pulses blend together organically. The tempo and tone of the music turn dramatically on "La Ultima Cena de Rita" where synthesizer, electric guitar, multi-tracking of vocals and percussion are all employed. Before the piece wraps up it takes an abrupt turn into a swirling, dream-like state. In Trance closes with "La Luna o los Ritos del Amor" (The Moon or the Rites of Love), a Spanish language poem with the acoustic guitar very briefly serving as an interstitial bridge between stanzas.

If there is an issue to consider with In Trance, it is this: for roughly thirty-six minutes the album is an impressionistic gem; highly creative from both the writing and arranging perspectives. Ocaña's playing, particularly on acoustic guitar, is mesmerizing and full of dynamism. However, the closing twenty-one minutes dedicated to Nelson Ricart-Guerrero's poem is not for everyone and is certainly an outlier on an album that is so intently musical. It's outside the scope of this analysis to attempt an evaluation of stand-alone poetry but suffice to say, it feels disconnected from the rest of the material. Nevertheless, In Trance should not be overlooked and Ocaña seems poised for breaking through to a broader market.

Track Listing: Ritos; In Trance 1; In Trance 2; Fabrica de Suenos; Tu Sombra; La Ultima Cena de Rita; La Luna o los Ritos del Amor” (The Moon or the Rites of Love).

Personnel: Anthony Ocaña: acoustic & classical guitar, percussion, synthesizer, vocals; Gorka Capel: electric guitar, vocals; Juan Olivares: recitation (7).

Title: In Trance (La Luna o los Ritos del Amor) | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Producciones Los Mafus

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