Gustavo Santaolalla :
Gustavo Santaolalla's Camino
The New Album
Available July 8
from the Grammy®
and Academy Award®-Winning Composer
Gustavo Santaolalla'ssolo instrumental album Ronroco was a game-changer for the visionary artist when it was released in 1998. Camino, to be released by Sony Music Masterworks on July 8, is the long-awaited follow up to that album – a rich, beautifully crafted instrumental journey illuminating Santaolalla's unmistakable sound. Camino again features the Grammy® and Academy Award®-winning composer playing the ronroco, his signature 10-string Andean folk instrument similar to the charango, as well as other instruments that he has mastered including the guitar, guitarron, oud, cuatro, toba violin, and bouzouki. The album includes 12 new tracks, along with one of the featured tracks from Santaolalla's recent BAFTA Games-nominated soundtrack to Sony PlayStation's The Last of Us.
Caminois a creative work so personal that it reaches a spiritual level for Santaolalla. It evokes a similar minimalist mood, with plaintive folk-like melodies and dark acoustic textures woven throughout, combined with generous space for resonance and echo.
"Creating this album was a process of collecting music through the years and finding the pieces that I thought belonged together," Santaolalla says of the 16-year gap between Ronroco and Camino. "These are personal things that I did, but I never used: a kind of intimate album that I wrote and recorded for myself."
The album begins with "Alma," which means "soul" in Spanish. It is the oldest song included on Camino. "While coming back from Hawaii 15 years ago, I had my ronroco with me and wrote the song in the airport," Santaolalla recalls. He also uses pipes, which have long been a part of his sound, but it's the haunting melody on the ronroco that sets this song and album in motion.
More kinetic is the circular sounding "Vamos," which features Santaolalla's delicate fingerpicking expanded with guitars, guitarrón, cuatro, tres, bass, keyboards, pipes, and percussion. Punch Brothers fiddle player Gabe Witcher makes a guest appearance on this richly detailed sonic tapestry.
Opening with guitar and pump organ, the aptly titled "Requiem" is a slow cinematic piece in which one can literally hear Santaolalla's fingers moving across the frets. A bass harmonica mimics the sound of insects in the second half of the song. It's Santaolalla's favorite track, "I really like the simplicity of ‘Requiem,' but that's also the case with this music in general. I think it's music that connects with a spirit.
Possessing one of the album's most memorable melodies, "Cordon de Plata" is a play on words – the composer named it after a chain of mountains in his native Argentina. It also refers to the cord that connects the spirit to the body when one has an out of body experience and goes on a spiritual journey. With "Ella," one moves from the celestial to the corporeal, inspired by the special connection Argentine mothers have before and after the umbilical cord is cut.
"The Maze," is a haunting song embellished by dissonances, Santaolalla references how he felt when he first moved to Los Angeles and met a publishing agent who said, "My music and songs were very good, but at a certain point, I will hit the ‘wrong chord or note.' I took it as a compliment. I always try to look for the ‘wrong note or chord' that will throw you off. Now people seem to like my wrong notes."
"Parana," is a piece that waltzes in 6/8 time and is played on a Venezuelan cuatro; "Through the Rainwall" finds Santaolalla intertwining Cuban tres and the ronroco as a haunting flute-like keyboard hovers in the background; and the rhythmic "Seguir" features bass and percussion, bringing it close to a pop tune.
"Wait and Then" is another simple sounding tune, but below the resonances and slow picking, is a manifesto from the composer in the shape of the oud. Although Santaolalla played it on Babel, he still is happily learning.
"I love playing instruments that I don't know how to play or am not familiar with," he points out. "I like the idea of danger and innocence that comes from it. As an artist I feel I should be able to do something with anything I get my hands on. The music becomes minimalist because of my limited knowledge."
While they complement Camino perfectly, three of the songs on the album might be familiar to listeners from other contexts. Both the elegantly sweeping "Joaillerie" and the ambient "The Journey" were included in a Louis Vuitton ad campaign, and a version of "Returning" was used in PlayStation's video game The Last of Us.
To close the album, Santaolalla chose "Returning." "To me this is really an introspective and very spiritually driven piece," he says of the track. "At one point it gets really big, but there is no rhythm. There is texture, noise, friction – it becomes very human. On one hand it can be very spiritual and on the other, it is grounded by the textures."
Gustavo Santaolalla is a multi-faceted artist who is best known for his work writing movie scores and producing albums. He is also the founder of the alt-tango-rock band, Bajofondo. As a composer, he has won two Academy Awards® for Best Original Score for his work on Babel and Brokeback Mountain, for which he also won a Golden Globe® Award. He has won two Grammy® Awards as an album producer: Best Latin Pop Album for Juanes' La Vida...Es Un Ratico and Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album for Cafe Tacuba's Cuatro Caminos and 14 Latin Grammys including three with Bajofondo.Most recently, Santaolalla composed the scores for the films, On The Road, the Walter Salles film inspired by the iconic book by Jack Kerouac and, for August Osage County, inspired by the Pulitzer Prize winning play. He is currently writing the score for the animated film The Book of Life produced by Guillermo del Toro. Santaolalla is working with Paul Williams on the film's original songs before moving on together to jointly work on del Toro's musical adaptation of Pan's Labyrinth.