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(99:20 2CD, Lizard Records)
Prolusion. The Italian project INSONAR appears to mainly be the creative vehicle of Claudio Milano (vocals) and Marco Tuppo (electronics), although it might just as well be described as a massive collaborative effort. Massive due to the 2 CD's worth of music to some extent, but first and foremost due to the expansive list of collaborators: Counting Milano and Tuppo, that list consists of more than 60 artists in total. Work on this production commenced in 2009, and the end result was released in the summer of 2013 as a joint venture between Lizard Records, dEn Records and Caraba Edizioni.
Disc-1 “L'Enfant” (59:30)
TRACKLIST: 1. The Simpsons Sing Gounod 2:43 2. L’Estasi di Santo Nessuno 5:30 3. La Stanza a Sonagli 6:24 4. Thief of Toys 5:49 5. L’Inventasogni 5:33 6. Menura Latham 6:18 7. Gallia-1 3:22 8. Venus in Furs 6:38 9. Dieci Bambini Cacao 12:53 10. Hamelinvoice 4:20 LINEUP: Claudio Milano – vocals Marco Tuppo – synthesizers, sampling (etc) With: Walter Calloni – marimba, drums Michele Nicoli – guitars, bass Andrea Quattrini – drums, tabla Pierangelo Pandiscia – percussion, glockenspiel Francesco Zago – guitars, soundscapes Trey Gunn (!) – Warr guitar Pat Mastelotto (!) – drums Ivan Cattaneo – vocals Viviane Houle – vocals Max Pierini – bass Vincenzo Zitello – harp Andrea Illuminati – piano Simone Zanchini – accordion Stefano Ferrian – saxophone Francesco Chiapperini – flute Gino Ape – oboe &: Other musicians
Analysis. If I should try to describe the initial part of this double feature in as few words as possible, I'd say that this is a celebration and an exploration of the possibilities presented to you when exploring a landscape dominated by vocals and electronics. It's a description that covers the most distinct features on this disc, to my ears, and while it is scratching at the surface contents-wise, I suspect the grater majority of listeners will also recognize this as a superficial description but accurate enough within that context. One might also want to add the word challenging to this at some point, although we're not dealing with an entity with a primary focus towards atonalities or other effects of a dramatically challenging nature, there's no denying that this is a production that takes the art of music into territories of an unusual nature. Even if it often does so by subtle means. Opening and ending this initial chapter are songs that appear to hone in on the role of the vocals. Lead and backing vocals, layered vocals, a capella tendencies, vocal effects... Carefully backed with percussion details and dampened instrumentation respectively, the non-vocal aspects of both of these compositions utilized to establish or emphasize certain atmosphere details in a distinctly subservient manner. Those who love vocals whose role go well beyond merely delivering lyrics in a compelling manner should have a field day carefully listening to these songs. The eight pieces of music in between also have a distinct focus on vocals, but here the instrumentation has a more distinct and defined role. Something that highlights one of the key features of this album, as I experience it. Vocals and electronic effects of various kind are generally used to create contrasts throughout, where the vocals have the role as the warm, organic and emotional element while the electronic instruments tend to be cold, sterile and clinical. Both of them under firm control, the vocals with feelings harnessed and tamed but seemingly awaiting an opening to break free, the electronics mechanically harnessed but always with the feeling that there's more power at hand. These tendencies are, at least to my set of ears, fairly obvious, and give the often ambient oriented escapades here a very distinct and somewhat ominous quality and vitality not often found in music that may be described as ambient in style. There's more at hand than mere vocals and electronics of course, like the gentle flute textures adding a distinct children's song feeling to L'Estasi di Santo Nessuno, a song about children too, but dealing with a subject matter that will send chills down the spine of all normal people. Otherwise the compositions tend to be about blending ambient, harmonic arrangements with subtly chaotic supporting details developing into a more chaotic state of affairs. This is an often used approach as this production unfolds, arguably most of all on L'Inventasogni, a song that ends up as some sort of free-form improvised avantgarde jazz piece at the end. Those fond of cover songs will find plenty to enjoy on Venus in Furs, a take on this classic track I kind of suspect needs to be sorted under the "one of a kind" hashtag. Among all the blends of vocals, conventional instruments used in unconventional and regular manners, cold but careful electronic textures and rhythms, I'd select two specific compositions as the clear highlights. Aforementioned L'Esrasi di Santo Nessuno is one of them, a moving and captivating experience even before you start taking a look at the lyrics. Later on epic length Dieci Bambini Cacao is a magical exploration of vocals, electronics and tortured instrument details, the greater majority of this composition dominated by cold, careful symphonic inspired electronic textures and controlled, emotional lead vocals, where twisted instrument and some twisted vocal details add a strong underlying tension to this creation, faint dark sounds giving this elongated tale a nifty, brooding undercurrent.
Disc-2 “Ashima” (39:50)
TRACKLIST: 1. Liberami 2:57 2. Song to the Siren 6:56 3. Cancion del Jinete 3:26 4. La Torre Piu Alta 6:36 5. Plaisir d’Amour 4:44 6. Warszawa 6:42 7. Gallia-2 3:16 8. Medina 5:13 LINEUP: Claudio Milano – vocals; whistles Marco Tuppo – synths, loops, ebow; bass With: Michele Bertoni – mandolin, guitars, bass Walter Calloni – drums, percussion, udu Francesco Chiapperini – sax, flute Elliott Sharp – bass; saxophone Angelo Manzotti – vocals Viviane Houle – vocals Paolo Tofani – guitars Jonathan Mayer – sitar Burkhard Stangl – piano Nik Turner (!) – saxophones Michael Thieke – clarinet Nate Wooley – trumpet Graham Clark – violin &: Other musicians
Analysis. The second part of InSonar's double album "L'Enfant et le Ménure" opens up where the first part stopped, more or less. A composition opening with a dark, calm and controlled voice in focus with a sparse but effective bass support, fairly quickly developing into a sonic constellation of a rather different kind, though. Chaotic, dramatic and emotional, and set up in a manner that kind of forces me to describe this song as an intercourse, at least from a musical point of view. Otherwise many of the same tendencies found on the first CD continue here too, with electronics and vocals used as contrasting features in an emotional context. Additional instrumentation is used in regular and non-regular manners to add effects of a subtle as well as a more dramatic and expressive nature, the aforementioned vocals also alternating between controlled and expressive modes of delivery, the latter also most frequently the case for backing vocals and vocal effects. There are several cases of compositions that explore territories of a slightly different nature too however. Torre Piu Altamore of a folk-oriented affair featuring plucked guitars and sitar in a spirited, intense run. Still with place and room for electronic details, but all in all, a creation with much more of an Earthly vibrancy to it. There are two cover versions in this disc too, and the Brian Eno and David Bowie original Warszawa is the most thrilling of these with its haunting violin, psychedelic guitar details, drones and, in the latter part of the song, elegant flute details. The most compelling composition is the concluding one, at least to this set of ears, and is also a creation that is rather different from just about all the others here. The tracks is named Medina, and is an instrumental feature of the kind that most likely needs to be described as cosmic and ambient in style and expression. A slow moving piece that opens carefully with cold, cosmic synths that gradually intensify as layers of sounds and effects grow in, contrasts are established and rhythms and subtly disturbing machine-like sound effects find their place in an increasingly richly layered, majestic sound tapestry. With a brief, dampened intermission just past the halfway point.
Conclusion. Whenever Claudio Milano is involved, the end result tends to be material that warrants a description as avant-garde. This is the case also for this double album issued under the InSonar moniker, and while you won't find too many starkly dramatic avant-garde features on this production the number of careful details of a challenging nature will satisfy the avid listener with an interest in adventurous music. As will the fairly extensive use of unusual sounds and instruments used in more or less unusual manners. This is a subtle production, and perhaps even to some extent one that can be described as ambient, but still purebred avant-garde music, emphasizing that music, even in our world of mass consumption and superficial joys, is still one of the arts rather than a shallow product made for mass entertainment.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 20 & 21, 2014
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