Approaching a new record from Ulises Conti is always an intriguing proposition. The Argentinian composer and sound artist has a knack for defying expectations and keeping audiences on their toes. His previous release, 1234,8 was a collection of experimental electronica that seemed to sit at the intersection of Kraftwerk and Brian Eno, whilst before that Bremen was a series of field recordings from around the North German city. Conti’s latest release, Los Efímeros is perhaps on the face of things a more traditional release, being an orchestral composition, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less surprising.

Los Efímeros is defined by sustained passages of music. The album opens with just a harp and violin, the played notes seemingly held for as long as possible. From here Conti gradually layers in more instruments - a French horn, more strings, even percussion - but it’s all played in the same slow, deliberate way. There’s some enthralling about ‘Oberturra’ and the tracks that follow. The pacing seems to warp your perception of time, whilst drawing you deeper and deeper into the music. It is, in some ways, reminiscent of Jherek Bischoff’s album Cistern, which also revelled in using sustained soundscapes - though Los Efímeros arguably is neither as deeply affecting as Bischoff’s work, nor does it as rigidly adhere to this concept.

As the album progresses, Conti starts to play with rhythm and melody to keep things interesting. Just as the listener is getting used to the soft sustain of strings, in comes ‘Interludio’ which sees plucked strings creating a galloping mid-tempo melody over a mournful horn. ‘Divertimento’ meanwhile, the album’s most oddball track, features hurriedly whispered vocals alongside an almost chaotic arrangement, which instruments entering and exiting suddenly; strings rise and fall, a horn is blown sharply, and percussion is struck once and never again.

Despite this slower, more considered approach to song composition, Los Efímeros is a surprisingly short record. This both works for and against it. For a start, the record never really outstays its welcome. Having to get through ten movements in a little over 30 minutes means that whilst songs may be a slow burn, they are still relatively concise before Conti moves on to something different. Unfortunately, this means a few too many abrupt endings and too many tracks that feel a little under-developed. ‘Preludio’ is especially guilty of this. It’s an interesting, mysterious piece of music that gradually builds in intensity from plucked harp to deep, ominous double bass melodies. Yet just as the track seems to be heading somewhere interesting it suddenly ends, with the final sound that of a bow scraping a violin as if the musician missed their cue to stop.

Overall Los Efímeros is an enjoyable, and often intriguing release. However, it is one where the individual components feel more like sketches than fully fleshed ideas. That being said, the record’s strongest moments, such as ‘Interludio’, ‘Preludio’ and ‘Virelay’ really show Conti’s ability to compose beautiful, emotionally evocative soundscapes.