One of my favorite albums from one of my favorite record label series. Largely piano-based, José Luis Macias’s Regreso a Valencia (Returning to Valencia) touched on that personal essence that made other albums like Toshifumi Hinata’s or Ichiko Hashimoto’s so intimate and gorgeous. Combining western-style minimalism with their own more regional, neoclassical styles, all these releases affect austerity at first, but upon further listening, grow to some deeply personal, emotional, and haunting at their core. What made his take different was that this one-time member of the much more widely known Spanish rock band, Comité Cisne, didn’t entirely smooth out the edges of his minimal instrumental balladry. On his solo debut, you can hear him folding into his sound sparse ’80s synthesis, Moorish-sounding instrumentation, and equally unplaceable field recordings into one all-unified thing. Heavily laced with sonic nostalgia, Regreso a Valencia puts you in the world of Old Europe using ways that are instant and appreciable, simply because they are in fact quite modern.

José Luis Macias’s Regreso A Valencia was released by El Cometa de Madrid as part of a series of “new age” recordings (for lack of a better term) by the groundbreaking Spanish experimental label Grabaciones Accidentales home of Finis Africae and Suso Saiz’s Orquesta De Las Nubes. Combining ambient recordings captured from his hometown of Valencia with tranquil-sound electronics that seem more at home in a Dip In the Pool recording session, out of all the brilliant El Cometa de Madrid releases, José Luis’s rivals Patricia Escudero‘s as some of their most peaceful and easy listens.

Some of my favorite cuts like “Mirando a Una Plata” driven by decidedly Spanish motives, where lone accordion swells discover echoing FM piano in ways, easily coexist with environmental music like “Paseo Por El Zoco” where unplaceable Valencian field recordings envelope atmospheric piano soliloquies to some beautiful follow through. In others, like ECM Jazz-lilting songs like “Balada Ovalada” you can hear gorgeous electronic synth swells moving elegantly around rococo-style acoustic instrumentation pushing the song forward. There are so many songs that I wish I could touch on – beautiful electronic nocturnes like “Paracaídas”, Eno-like ambient romanzas like “Gaviota Sobre el Piano”, or those musical fireworks from “Danza de la Pólvora y el Aire”! – but I really should leave the surprises for you.