When the sun goes down, Valerio Tricoli comes out. Or at least that’s what we’re imagining, because this is not daytime music. It’s far too dark and intricate for that. Nighttime brings out the nuances of Tricoli’s electro-acoustic works, exposing their tiny cracks and rough protuberances. Clonic Earth is the PAN label sequel to Miseri Lares, although another LP appeared in the interim: the sprawling 2-track Vixit on Second Sleep, now in its second printing.
With all this darkness, it’s easy to forget that Tricoli had co-founded post-rock band 3/4HadBeenEliminated, but even then, the complexities of his music set him above the herd. The new set continues to move his sound into the realm of disjointed acoustics, relying on impression and mood to make an impact. But the strangest note may be that struck by the cover: like Holly Herndon before him, Tricoli displays disco-inflected images while dwelling in the sonic avant garde. Suffice it to say that there are no club singles here; with five tracks in 64 minutes, there’s nothing even remotely radio-friendly. The quarter-hour piece below is one of the shorter tracks. The cover then becomes a strange concession or obsession, mocking mainstream expectations while embracing their form.
Our enjoyment of Tricoli is two-fold. First, there’s the widescreen view, as these drones and 1/4-inch tape experiments create an atmosphere of dread, a sullen surrender to the murk. And then there’s the macro view, as the listener zeroes in on specific sounds: tinkling bells, babbling brooks, guttural onomatopoeia. Imagine a curiousity cabinet with glass drawers, each filled with a different hue of debris; this is the sound of Clonic Earth. The press release calls these “estranged sonic objects”, implying that they were ostracized or excised from more popular works: that Tricoli found them while walking in the dark, frayed tape wrapping around his pant legs, begging to be taken home.
Tricoli speaks of the album as a representation of Chaldean fire, making this the second such album we’ve reviewed in recent weeks, the first being Ina Ynoki’s Himmelmechanik. Each investigates flame as an instrument of transmutation, in Tricoli’s case that of sound into echo, matter into smoke. When a choir begins to sing in “Stromkirche or Terminale”, one imagines ancient, holy rituals; but then the tape is spliced and a new, lower register, fractured sort of chant begins: as if the old gods are dead, or the older gods have been resurrected. The same holds true for the tolling bells in the closing piece, because they are not tolling bells, but their captured sound.
When a voice speaks and is suddenly shut off in “Interno D’Incendio”, one thinks of the silencing of viewpoints. Tricoli’s interest in the arcane indicates that he pays attention to these voices: not the loud and insistent bellow, but the lost message, gnarled and difficult to translate. To listen is to wander into a deserted cave without a torch, and to feel the words on the cheeks. The effect is unsettling, but every stalactite drip has something to offer, if only the cold comfort of being fully alive. “It wasn’t the same”, a voice intones in the title track. We are never the same. The only question is, how much will we be changed? (Richard Allen)