With tapes inspired by the four alchemic elements, Dromoscope’s Antidigital Series picks up where Maurizio Bianchi and Matteo Uggeri’s Between the Elements Quadrilogy left off in 2012. By paying attention to the timbres suggested by the elements, this new series (curated by Daniele De Santis) makes a worthy successor. Dromoscope also uses cassette technology as a statement against the digital ~ although in deference to purchasing preferences, digital versions are available as well.
The series kicks off with GRÜN‘s Supervegetale, which is inspired by Earth and the corresponding number four. An amusement is present in the title, unintentionally reminiscent of the (more benign) “Veggie Tales” series, especially as the first three tracks are titled “Plant”, “Deep Green” and “Growth”. The opening piece begins with static that sounds like rain, or water from a can, while single beats pulse like a burgeoning seed. In the final seconds, everything goes a little wobbly, as if the seed is about to sprout. And in “Deep Green”, the tone of the static changes from fuzz to crackle, approaching definition, while light orchestral maneuvers decorate the background. “Growth” introduces a steady beat, completing the initial triptych. While the remainder of the tape keeps up the quality, a re-sequencing of tracks, stretching the “story” of growth over the length of the entire tape, might have been more effective. Still, a pattern of cycles can be discerned as the ensuing quartet of pieces culminates in the active “Combustione” (including a sound caught between a woodpecker and a jackhammer), the following couplet rises in return, and the closing “Dropping” brings the temperature down a notch, setting up the next installment.
The fire arrives with Ina Ynoki (Robert Dolcetti)’s fuzzy, industrial Himmelmechanik. One can certainly hear the flames in this recording, as the beats are dark and the electronics drenched. On “Dub Warriors”, an echoed voice is added, reminding the listener of the human element behind the machines. This is exactly what one might expect from fire: a destructive, cleansing element, ominous and untamed. The first of two tracks named “A Forest” (no relation to the song by The Cure) comes across as punishing, even without drums, so when the pounding beats return on “Walking Death”, listeners may experience a tiny shudder. A sense of anger continues throughout the recording, never hinting at the aftermath. Yet one is implied by the silence at the end of the tape, after which natural sounds set in one more.
The latest entry comes from Andrea Ricci, and is somewhat of a respite, the perfect set to follow the fire. Mainarde is inspired by Air, the number two, and Ricci’s homeland. The five tracks are untitled, but progress in a linear fashion. It’s a bit surprising to hear water at the beginning of an air tape, but shortly into the opening piece, the sound of air is introduced through zampogna (double chantered pipes). The dual implication: breath, mouthed and manipulated, is joined to the “natural” air of the artist’s surroundings. And after learning that Ricci is an agronomist, one begins to make the connections between the elements, none of which is a closed system. The earth needs the water, the water is filled with air, the air carries the fire, the fire cleanses the earth. By the third track, the air begins to sound like wind, bearing seeds, continuing the motion that cultivates the lower slopes of the Monti della Meta. The fourth piece suggests shepherds and wind chimes, providing the loveliest moments of the series to date. In the closing track, the rain arrives, setting up the Water tape, due this summer from Giuseppe Bifulco’s perfectly titled project Drøp.
The series as a whole is already a success, pointing through the analog back further to the pre-analog: the organic. The series is a reminder of a time before a time, as well as a time that still exists concurrently with our time: the antidigital beating heart of the world. (Richard Allen)