A Journal Of The Dark Arts
A sense of place is becoming increasingly important in these disassociated times, as is lovingly illustrated in Boomkat‘s exceptional 14tracks compilation Psychoacoustic Cartography. These seems to be true of every style and genre, but is triply compounded in the realm of electronic music, which all-too-often never emerges from the claustrophobic confines of motherboards and processors. Electronic musicians seem to be drawing a line in the sand, falling into one of two camps. On one hand, you’ve got the hyper clean and precise alien grime eskibeat sculptures favored by James Ferraro and lashed together into spastic contraptions, via juke and footwork. And on the other hand, you’ve got, what i rather lamentably label “industrial techno“, (there has got to be a better name. Any takers? Industrial techno makes me think of, and often leads me, mid ’90s hardcore/gabber, which is similar, but not the same), with musicians channeling dancefloor miasma from antiquated gear, packed in styrofoam and white noise. Post-industrial techno is more like it, as it definitely often sounds like music made for decrepit warehouses on shitty, broken equipment in a bunker,somewhere between Wim Wenders‘ Berlin in Wings Of Desire, and The Zone, in Tarkovsky‘s Stalker.
Sonno entirely corrects this uncanny dislocation, as a symphony of tones, pulsing drones, fathomless bass, and coruscating echoes were entirely recorded in hotel rooms, with Corsini walking around the room like a water witch with a field recorder, picking up the sine waves, as they weave, dive, and dodge, creating unique, interesting, and lush phasing that is damn near impossible to replicate digitally.
Alessandro Cortini is best known as the live electronics performer in Nine Inch Nails. It shows, as many moments on Sonno bring to mind NIN’s Ghosts I – IV, so for those who have worn out those records’ 8 sides shall rejoice, with a new sound installation to lose yrself in for days, weeks, and months at a time, transforming yr house or office into a version of La Monte Young‘s dream house.
Cortini is also known as a master of the Buchla synth (did you even know there WAS such a thing), although in this case, Sonno was conceived with a much more rudimentary setup, Roland MC 202 through a delay pedal, recorded direct, sometimes into a small portable speaker system. Yes, that’s right, he even used speakers as microphones, further contributing to Sonno‘s distant, ruined fidelity, something like the sound of a dying star, its light reaching us 230 years after its demise. Or like macroscopic photography of tearing lace.
Even though Roland is best known for their beatmaking apparati, Sonno is a beatless affair, as in “devoid of percussion”, as Marc Weidenbaum recently noted in his 33 1/3 Book on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II, every sound has a beat, as they are comprised of sine waves, which rise and fall. This is an apt connection, as Sonno is definitely in the same spirit as SAW II, as well as ambient classics like Music For Airports or Discreet Music by Eno, and is easily as good as any of them, and i don’t say that lightly.
Sonno works as a whole, although each individual track is beautiful and stands up on its own. Some highlights are album opener “Ravina”, with its warm swells of organ-like bass drone, or the lonesome haunted drift of “Voltaggio Solitario” that sounds like Leyland Kirby smearing “1/1”. “Di Passagio”, posted above, is the undisputed champion for this gentle scribe, however, with an intimation of a bassline that makes me think of underwater minimalist techno, watching a meteor shower from the Dead Sea.
There is not a bad moment or bunk note on Sonno; i’ve been hypnotized and mesmerized from hearing the opening strains a week ago, and have become irrevocably obsessed. Cortini has had two successful albums recently on Important Records, Forse 1, and Forse Two, that i can’t wait to hear, so expect to hear more about this.
This is a modern ambient classic, one of the best i’ve heard in a minute, further situation Hospital Productions at the peak of the interesting electronic music pyramid. At this point, you might as well buy anything by them that you can get yr hands on, as its bound to be interesting.
I cannot recommend this album highly enough.