Gabriel Garzón-Montano‘s sophomore album is a sanctuary for ears tired of hearing bad news. The aptness of the title, Jardín, (or ‘Garden’) is impossible to miss.
My mother’s garden was at the center of my childhood. The memories I keep closest are of warm August dirt under my bare feet and the taste of fresh raspberries. Digging up carrots and potatoes. Planting peas in the spring. That sort of thing.
From that garden, I learned meditation and movement and an intimacy with the earth that can be experienced few other ways. I also learned to shovel manure and turn compost heaps and how to most effectively hack at frozen ground with a heavy shovel. I learned planning, working, hoping and, sometimes, disappointment.
Above all, the garden taught me that the miracle of sustenance can be created from almost nothing. Every song on Jardín grows just from a few lovingly selected instruments. Garzón-Montano tracked every one of the sounds in the album to 2″ tape himself, working with analog guru Henry Hirsch to create a warm wonderland rich with all the flavors of love, lust, and loss.
Listening, I’m reminded that there is a special kind of generosity in radical simplicity. In stripping his music down to its barest, Garzón-Montano not only rises to the challenge of minimalism, he also makes space for the anxieties and swirling questions of listeners weary of desperate times. The soothing “Trial” sets the tone in soft strings and rattles that resonate like rain. It is a beckoning hand, an invitation to sink into a single moment where other, less pleasant moments can’t barge in demanding attention.
This is not to say, however, that the album lacks a consciousness of its own. Jardín is steeped in Garzon-Montano’s experience as a first generation French/Colombian New Yorker and is peppered with pointed questions about fame, love, and heartbreak.
On “Fruitflies” he sings, “A million pairs of feet getting weak / We’re all so tired of walking, but we can’t find a way back home.” It’s one of the album’s most tender moments, and it strikes me as a voice reaching out to wanderers and refugees everywhere, inviting them to share compassion and offering at least a momentary respite from their precarious journeying. It is a timely promise for uncertain times.
For fans of: Rhye, Astronauts Etc., Jesse Boykins III