Dronegazing? The punctuation is really crucial here, and the emphasis on resonances is not to be understated.
I appreciate the importance of labels in building and sustaining communities, but like many of us I also chafe at the restrictions imposed by labels. Genre has never just been about formal aspects, but also about community and social concerns. Punk is an interesting example, as its early stages included various subcultures that would only find formal expression in the genre’s second decade – as hardcore, reggae, ska, and new wave. Social conventions can restrict an artform just as much as formal constraints, however, and often such parameters result in stifling of the possible. It’s a relief to see that the tag ‘dronegazer’ here is deployed a bit tongue in cheek, and rather the priority is on showcasing the work of a community of musicians whose work has been influencing one another.
Oak Editions was founded by Francesco Giannico & Alessio Ballerini as a label to complement AIPS, the Italian Soundscapes Archive. Since their debut Postcards from Italy was released last Fall, Oak Editions has been steadily releasing high quality work documenting the extended activities of the collective, including a multimedia project by Ballerini with Silvia Candelaresi, sounds of Murano’s glassmakers, the lovely sparse field-records of Orla Wren, and an excellent series of shortwave radio manipulations by Pietro Riparbelli, available as very limited edition sound sculptures.
Italian Resonances: Dronegazers? features seven artists affiliated with AIPS, several of whom are sure to be recognized by readers of this site. All of the tracks here are exclusive to the release, and in fact it’s not a compilation at all but a work commissioned by an Italian journalist documenting an emergent style unique to this community of Italian sound manipulators.
Enrico Coniglio’s My Home, Sinking introduces the album with glistening chord swells before a guitar enters, ringing out gently but firmly, its notes sustaining until background and foreground become indistinguishable. Coniglio’s field-recording based work released under his own name tends to be subtle and require the utmost attention, an active listening to the materiality of sound. My Home, Sinking is tonal and droning, apologetically beautiful and more conventionally expressive and emotional.
Slowly building layers of loops, Alberto Boccardi’s “Far Light” immediately feels more anxious. The electronic oscillations and sweeping noises gradually build tension until the final quarter of the track the bottom seems to drop out and the after image, all attack-less drone and spectral after image, slowly fades out.
Am I the only one that thinks of the Detroit dub techno artist Deepchord when they encounter the name Easychord? In any case, “Fear of Tunnels” isn’t so much about going anywhere, but sustains a resonant space constructed of a pleasing palette of drones. Maybe not the most memorable of the bunch, but well executed and a strong example of the excellent use of resonance rather than melodic progression at work in many of these artist’s oeuvre.
Attilio Novellino really knows how to handle dynamics. “Litost” begins as a whispy drone but as each new attackless layer is blended in it almost imperceptibly starts to soar. Each swell subtly adds to the next and then gradually subsides like the tide. Not a complicated method, but Novellino has a good ear for the craft, his tones are well chosen, and overtones, especially when played at high volume, are just gorgeous.
Cristiano Deison is a new name to me, and I can’t tell if his title “no one will listen, but you” is aimed at himself or his listeners. Predictably we have more swelling layers of loops, but Deison’s timbres are more electronic than many of his peers. The layers shifting creating some action to get lost in, and though the mood may be somewhat anxious, the overall effect is pleasant.
For me, Giulio Aldinucci‘s “on” is the unquestioned highpoint of Italian Resonances. His earlier ambient work as Obsil was very beautiful, but his skill as a composer have greatly improved since switching to his own name. The electronic excursions of Tarsia remain a favorite of mine,and last year’s tape Archipelago demonstrated a solid command of the drone form. Aldinucci manipulates the resonant frequencies of spaces through field-recordings, while the last movement of “on” ushers in organ-like timbres allowing for an interesting movement of the pulse between resonances.
Franceso Giannico focuses more on the high frequency swells, knowing to pull back when necessary. Aptly titled “Pilgrim,” the integration of field-recording of a walk give the light recurring melody just enough forward momentum to keep monotony at bay.
Lastly, the seven artists unite as the Dronegazers Collective for “Anner II” another airy, resonant and stuttering ambient track that may serve as a template for the style these artists have defined for themselves.
Commissioned by Fabrizio Garau from TheNewNoise.it, an italian webzine documenting alternative and experimental music, Italian Resonances: Dronegazers? is a testament to the Italian scene, and to the potential reinvention drone music offers in the right hands. Deserves to be played loud for maximum impact, and hopefully will encourage many listeners to dig deeper into the catalog of Oak Editions and the wider Italian experimental community.