A Journal Of The Dark Arts

The Melancholic Meditative Minimalism of Alessandro Cortini’s Risveglio

Allesandro Cortini Risveglio album review  There is a particular kind of machine trance that comes from listening to sequencer-based music. It’s a hypnotic psychedelia in the arthouse minimalist tradition – a lead solder vein running from Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples Of The Moon to the ballroom dancehall of The Velvet Underground, through to Kraftwerk, Suicide, Throbbing Gristle, Carl Craig. It’s a cooler, more cerebral take on tripping out than the West Coast acid fried, fringe-and-beard mushroom mysticism (which we also adore, but is… sunnier.)

The repetition of minimalism calls back to ancient primeval practices like chanting and drum circle, but this the sci-fi version, an illustration of the atavistic return if ever there was one. While this machine worship may speak to ancient pagan blood rites, it would have been close to impossible for one human to produce this level of racket until the existence of electricity and recording technology. Machines make it possible to keep the loops going, grooving ad finitum, letting the composer/magician drop in and out of the (electrical) current as they see fit.

While visionary synth worship is not exactly a revelation in recent years, most practitioners favor the rocket ship console aesthetic of modular synths, Cortini employs the alchemical building blocks of proto-techno: Roland 202, 303, and 909, and a humble delay pedal.

These rudimentary rhythm machines tend to be monophonic, only producing one note at a time, making their music daisy chains of baroque counterpoint. This interplay of layers of sequences places Cortini’s music in the Berlin School tradition of Kraftwerk, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream – live sequences ridden like serpent vodoun during cooly technological pagan orgies. While the first wave, particularly Kraftwerk, may have painted in a bright plastic Technicolor optimistic pallet, the Berlin School quickly became darker, more nocturnal, sub-aquatic and introspective. This would pave the way for minimal technicians like Wolfgang Voigt and his Gas project, Richie Hawtin, and dark ambient wizards like Loscil and Monolake.

The 11 long drifts comprising Risveglio have a bleary, burned out Kodachrome bent to them. It’s both futuristic, and the memory of the future. It’s the sound of lonely nights watching asteroid pics on the telly, wandering about megaliths with The Orb and Future Sounds Of London on yr headphones. It’s early life childhood wonder hardwired to sometimes somewhat shoddy space operas and time traveling ghost stories, surreal and mind-bending, which spills out once we get our skeletal fingers on some synths.

The thing about synths is the introspective meditative zone one can get into while live sequencing and filtering is just not possible in the traditional ceremonial music capacity, which were communal, ecstatic, and explosive by nature. This blackhole headnodding theta trance, this ancestral vision, found as often in dingy sweaty nightclubs as underneath faery stars. It’s still the same magick, nonetheless.

Risveglio is inspiring in its simplicity. Cortini summons such deep demon grooves, such dark space moody poetry, with three simple generators. Machines can serve as instant inspiration – a cosmic piano roll which can be activated at whim, a signal idea generator spitting out telegraph rolls of intricate note sequences that the great composers would’ve killed a cat for, let alone to have an orchestra that could play them, tirelessly, forever.

Technology can free our creativity, when we work well with it. When we don’t let it take over. When we focus. These inspirations can create the foundation for works of technical prowess. It’s also cool to listen to the process.

Live synth records like Risveglio strike the balance between noise and composition, between order and chaos. In the process, we learn to get the best from our machines, as we must from any instrument.

Cortini is inspiring in his willingness to unspool the spider web and watch it all happen, and to really focus and control his simple-yet-complex machinations. The oh-so-fucking-simple addition of a single delay pedal makes possible not only all manner of intricate rhythmic complexity, and casts the whole proceedings in a dreamy pall.

Fans of recent synth wizards like our favorites Pye Corner Audio, will find much to worship here.

Another stone cold classic from Hospital Productions. I’ll definitely be picking this one up on vinyl, when i get a couple of bucks. Save one for me.

We’ve been doing a lot of homework, in anticipation of the re-release of the modular synth documentary I Dream Of Wires, our interest has greatly resurged in all things electronic. We’ve been tripping the silver moonbeam, firing up the oscillators, finding the best synth records of all time and making lots of weird noises in new Forestpunk HQ.

Got a visionary synth record you think we should know about? Let us know below!

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2 comments on “The Melancholic Meditative Minimalism of Alessandro Cortini’s Risveglio

  1. KJ
    August 4, 2015

    Just getting into the new record from Ricardo Donoso–Machine To Machine. Did you hear his last, Sarava Exu? I can’t say much about it conclusively but to say the synth work on it is so fine. Richard Skelton’s newest, Belated Movements For An Unsanctioned Exhumation is a demanding work of fierce originality. I’d enjoy reading your thoughts on both.

    • forestpunk
      August 6, 2015

      Funny you should mention, because machine to machine was on top of my review stack. Maybe i’ll do that one next. I actually reviewed Saravu Exu for another site i write for, over here:

      I’ve not heard the new Richard Skelton but i’m a big fan, for a long time. Will definitely find that one! Thanks for the comment and stay posted!

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