Three years in the making, Stefano Ruggieri‘s debut album as afarOne reflects the stable hand of a pure perfectionist. Yet while crisp and precise, Lucen is also a triumph of mood, evocative of heavy woods and deep fog, similar in tone to the work of Murcof. Like Murcof, Ruggieri uses an electronic canvas, but paints with a classical brush. Both artists exude the sap of October: shadowed, nuanced, and determined, coats hunched against the oncoming wind.
This merging of genres is often found in the ambient arena, but to Ruggieri’s credit, his music has more in common with the industrial field. This brand of darkness posseses an intelligence all its own: not that of the raging beast, but of the calculating machine. The smart combination of “artificial” notes (crunchy beats, percussive flutters, synthetic patterns) with “natural” notes (piano, strings) provides Lucen with a sense of deep emotion under taut control, hunger held back by wire mesh. The glimpse of the churn beneath the lock is Lucen‘s power; it’s an album that could topple into chaos at any time, but never does. Discipline such as this is unusual in any recording, especially a debut. The clearest example is the closing track, “trial and error”, which flirts closely with the ledge, but pulls back to provide the album’s purest segment, a piano solo that pulls the drawstring on the pouch.
Elsewhere, the music is beat-oriented, but these beats do not invite dancing as much as they do forward movement: a push into the deep beyond. This is an album that faces demons, not one that hides, flinches or falters. It’s an album of secret weapons and sounds, one that knows how to defend itself against any adversary. It’s less an exorcist than a hooded, crossbowed figure on a black horse, whose very presence is enough to cause pause. While it may be an October album, it reminds us that forces beyond our ken continue to roam the earth, traveling wherever they choose, regal and unchallenged. (Richard Allen)