Arthur Hatton is a connoisseur of music and the founder of Linescratchers, a site that highlights LDS musicians who play music other than LDS-themed music. We’re pleased to have him as our guest for a special series of posts.
Last time, I detailed the musical career of Gregg Hale, who played guitar for Spiritualized and currently serves the Salt Lake Area (and Linescratchers) as a writer, reviewer, engineer, studio owner, and guitarist. Unfortunately, the next two artists I had lined up for #6 and #7 had to be changed. One of them doesn’t want people to know he’s Mormon, and the other feels that God called him to be a prophet, seer, and revelator, so he has left the Church to pursue his own prophetic mission. Too bad, because they’re both amazing musicians.
Fortunately for me, however, there are equally amazing musicians for me to add. One of my goals for this series was to highlight a wide variety of genres, so that everyone could potentially find a musician they like and can connect with. This next artist is a very
emotionally powerful New Age composer who has found a surprisingly great amount of underground success.
“New Age” seems to be a catch-all term for quite a bit of music, from ambient to organic electronica to orchestral pieces and everything in-between. Australis fills an interesting niche, and to fully understand it, it’s probably best to get to know the man behind the name.
Oscar Aguayo was born in Peru, a country where historically many cultures have met and blended together. It was there that Oscar originally was exposed to music. His mother, who played guitar, would play and sing to him when he was a child, and taught him piano when he was six.
“As you know, Peru was the cradle of the Inca empire before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. Also, after its independence in 1821 it became one of the many countries of the world that accepted slavery. Finally, well into the 19th century, Peru was one of the countries that imported labor from Asia to build its basic infrastructure. As a result of all this, Peru’s population is comprised of a variety of nationalities and intermixed ethnic groups. This diversity has also translated into a very rich and varied culture.
Curiously, I’ve come to see Peruvian influence in my music only after I left Peru in the ’90s. For example, unlike many Ambient and New Age composers, my music is essentially melodic which is a characteristic of the native Peruvian music. But beyond that, once in a while I am struck with the desire to compose music using the same instruments and the same styles as the native music from Peru. You can see examples of those influences in the track ‘Sacred Earth’ from Lifegiving (2005) and in ‘Paqta Kutemunqa’ from The Gates of Reality (2008).” – Oscar Aguayo, Interview with Linescratchers
When Oscar left Peru, he eventually settled in Utah and began composing, performing, and recording music. He played in a popular
Spanish rock band named Cabala in Utah but grew increasingly dissatisfied with that style of music. He longed to express himself
freely without expectations from the band or the crowd. So in 2004, Oscar Aguayo began composing music under the name Australis.
His first album, a ten-track collection of varied songs entitled “Lifegiving,” was an unexpected success. He released it without a
record label, yet several tracks from “Lifegiving” were put on New Age compilation CDs in the United States and Europe, and Orange Music, a record label from Southeast Asia, licensed it for re-release there. Oscar went on to produce a second album called “The Gates of Reality” that was released in 2008 by the Essential Noises record label. Musicians nowadays are lucky to have the Internet at their disposal, and their market potentially can be the whole world. Oscar has definitely found great success using that medium.
“You are right, radio stations tend to turn to popular music genres because they need to generate revenue to keep functioning. Radio stations are only businesses after all. There is however a very stable audience for more elaborated, more artistic and innovative kinds of music. It is not as big as the audience for popular music, but is it a significant audience nonetheless. The fact that less and less radio stations are playing New Age music could make it look like there are less and less people interested in it, but what actually happens is that there is a significant audience left behind by the media. Eventually that audience turns to the Internet looking for the music they can’t find on radio anymore.” – Oscar Aguayo, Interview with Linescratchers
So Australis found a friend in the Internet, and has become very successful exploring sonic landscapes. It is certainly a blend of styles. I have found that his songs can serve several purposes: they can be bold and passionate enough to monopolize your attention, but they are soothing enough to be played in the background if you are doing other things. He has chosen to incorporate sounds from all over the world in his music, and the result is that you never know what you’re going to get when one song stops and another song starts. He might throw in wood flute sounds from the Andes, guitar, charango, or all manner of ethnic percussion into a song, and blend that with synth pad sounds or electronic beats. He is a talented composer and multi-instrumentalist who knows what a song needs and how to keep a listener’s attention. When I asked Oscar to describe his music, he told me this:
“I would probably start by describing its intentions instead: to challenge the imagination, to captivate the heart; to invite the listener to explore their own emotions, to provoke their imagination.” – Oscar Aguayo, Interview with Linescratchers
It certainly does all those things. Australis is a complex, beautiful, and in his words “aromatic” project, and I highly recommend it to anyone. Do yourself a favor and pick up “The Gates of Reality.” You can listen to it while you’re driving, cleaning the house, meditating, reading, doing your taxes, anything. I think it’s only a matter of time before his music ends up in a movie. Oscar has a
bright future ahead of him. He’s currently working on new music, and if you subscribe to his newsletter on his website, you can get sneak previews of what he’s doing in the studio.