Track By Track: Ricardo Donoso – Sarava Exu


The multi-talented Ricardo Donoso can pride himself on having been schooled at some of the world's finest musical education institutions – being an alumni of Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory is no mean feat. Having moved from his Brazilian home to study in the US, Ricardo formed a music styling that pulls in influences from everything from contemporary composition to drone, techno and noise.

He talks us through his recent LP Sarava Exu to give us an idea of what his music is all about;


I wanted to start the album with a shock to the body; the first minute and a half here contain all the major elements that are then segregated and sprinkled throughout the album – sub bass hits, mechanical hums & glitches, candomble percussive elements, oddtime rhythmic ostinatos, bowed cymbals, ect – a prelude of whats to come. A grand disorder of elements that will be realigned & repurposed later, the rhythm and time are slightly off in this section to enhance this instability. Things then move through a dynamic maze of swells and ambient cues before the albums main theme is half exposed in at 2.52.

The album is about the ritual of Descent, it should feel as if you are moving through things, scenes & situations – constantly evolving trying to reach some peak, but never quite arriving. The title refers to dusk, all seven pieces revolve around the framework of an entire day.


One of the more rhythmic tracks, I wanted to have some lineage here to some of my earlier work with the rhythm & tempo but to then have it collapse into an atonal cloud, a symbol in itself. We also get the first introduction to the noise/static element here, barely sneaking in as an accent in the A section – these bursts of noise also evolve into longer more thorough elements, they are merely shining through the cracks here making an introduction. The B section introduces a heart beat like pulse over the atonal cloud, the same pulse appears again on the last track over some very tonal & major key beds. This notion of text painting is something I integrated deeply from playing in Ehnahre – I don’t want to give everything away, but each element used, the sub kicks, noise, chords, ect all of them have a specific representation with regards to the theme; the ritual, the decent, the day. What I always strive to achieve and what constitutes a truly wonderful, timeless album for me are those that work on multiple levels – they can stand on their own as a collection of songs and you needn’t understand any of the subtext, but for those moved to closer inspection will find an entire world they didn’t think existed, lurking just underneath the surface.


conticinium, ii, n. conticesco, the time when all becomes still – “The two hours marking the twilight of the Sun’s rest would be benevolent hours and conticinium being the hour of contemplation and fortifying the focus of the work taking place at the Intempestiva, the inopportune hour.” 


This piece divides the day in half as well as the album, it moves through through some of the darkest terrain and showcases a real sense unbalance until the main theme is fully exposed at 3:20 – the entire album is built on these four chords and its interpolations. This is the turning point.“Only Intempestiva, the dead of night, the blackest hour is considered auspicious for the night flight” –


“Cock-crowing, the last watch of the night, the break of day – where light returns to the world – this is the time for purification and sending to rest what is restless”. Finally an inkling of hope, I remember feeling possessed writing this, especially the ending – banging on a prepared piano, improvising on cymbals, running things through distortion pedals, it was a defining moment. The ending plays tribute to the subdivisions in Samba music and there is even some Chocalho on it. This is the centerpiece of the album for me and my favorite cut – it’s likely the most accessible but still holds the most weight for me; the marriage of acoustic & electronic sources here is something i want to keep exploring deeper.


This first track I wrote for the album, I knew it was going to be the albums peak as soon as it was finished. I’ve always been a huge film music fan, but even more so, I’ve always been fascinated by advert & trailer music. Old Lexus commercials for example were a favorite of mine, something about the slickness of that music appeals to me. Not to mention the fact that the sole purpose of that music is to form an emotional linkage for the viewer between a product or service, an incredibly powerful concept. Sarava Exu is very much inspired by movie trailer music, music that usually develops so fully and extremely in two minutes or less and has as its sole focus to trigger an emotional response with the viewer- I love how over the top contemporary trailer music is with these huge bombastic taiko drums, massive double stopping string sections, dramatic builds & crescendos – I wanted to play with these cliches in a meaningful way and this track is the embodiment of that. It help set the precedent & vocabulary for the entire album – in a way the entire album is one huge trailer.


Daybreak. An epilogue of sorts, the main theme is played in the beginning at half the speed, picks up speed and texture at 2:25 and closes out the album in a drawn out and brighter way where the chord tones are clearer and recognizable. The massive crescendo in the middle is the culmination of this day, of the ritual – after a brief respite, the theme returns in all its hazy glory signifying there is no escaping it. “Innocence, once lost, can never be regained. Darkness, once gazed upon, can never be lost.” 

Ricardo Donoso's LP Sarava Exu is out now via Denovali Records.