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Fer Franco
Ritos de Paso Zara Hedderman , February 8th, 2024 09:11

Debut from Guatemalan producer marks a promisibng combination of tonal dexterity and unhurried pacing, finds Zara Hedderman

In the process of developing his debut LP, Guatemalan producer Fer Franco described feeling “very detached from expectations,” choosing, instead, to simply enjoy the act of making music. Following his instincts, Franco conjures an endearing listening experience as the sonic sensibilities and structures of Ritos de Paso (which translates as ‘Rites of Passage’) are steered by loosely controlled and masterfully produced explorations that venture towards techno, kosmische music and gorgeous ambient arrangements.

There’s an undeniable assurance displayed in Franco’s production on this impressive debut. His attributes as both composer and producer are heard in the unhurried pacing and gradual expansion of the calming ‘Eliminar Lo Innecesario’ (an immediate highlight of the LP). The track effectively foregrounds the brilliant tonal dexterity of the LP, sitting between the compact sci-fi infused ‘Tu Señal’ and the atmospheric pulse running through the dark instrumental ‘Asumir Forma’. Franco melds those different sonic worlds with such finesse and consistently demonstrates how skilled he is at tastefully decorating his vast arrangements to create beautifully vivid compositions. Take the foundational thumping pattern of ‘Otras Voces’ which becomes intertwined with a bewitching combination of tingling, twinkling synths and haunting vocals, courtesy of UK musician Gary Burton, to create a gorgeous swirl of serenity.

In making his introduction with Ritos de Paso, Franco gives us an insight into his interiority through song titles and the subsequent atmospheres created in those worlds. From there, we can follow the various lines that together draw a map of his musical DNA, whether that’s in a likeness to producer Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) in the more ethereal synth moments or combining the essence of Thom Yorke’s 2006 solo effort The Eraser with some distinctly Animal Collective-like vocal stylings on the compelling closer, ‘Nunca Termina’. Outside of those musical references, one really feels the strength of community surrounding him on this release, notably fellow Guatemalan artist Mabe Fratti, whose contributions on ‘Ya No Vivo Aquí’ and ‘Eliminar Lo Innecesario’ bring great character to the songs. There’s a captivating comfort emanating from each of the contributors’ performances which make the thoughts of future works from Franco an exciting prospect.

There were times when listening to Ritos de Paso that made me think of mid-2000s culture and its lingering influence. ‘Otras Voces’ evoked both some of the dominant movements and motifs scattered across the Drive soundtrack whilst also bearing a likeness to artists like Washed Out. With each return to Ritos de Paso, I considered how the work fits into the present moment as it so often conjures the past via its tonal familiarity. In this regard, Franco isn’t exactly pushing the boundaries with these tracks, but that certainly doesn’t translate into this being a lacklustre offering either. Instead, it provides audiences with a rather comfortable setting to get acquainted with Fer Franco. It marks a promising start to his career.