The first thing one notices is the fabulist artwork of Flavio Parrino (1916-1994). The cover image implies a Victorian summer at the sea: families walking along a calm shore, encountering an inventor and a strange contraption, the man perhaps remarking to the woman about the wonder of it all.
This sense of discovery permeates the entire production, from the shifting visual deceptions of the video to the puzzle that accompanies the deluxe edition (hint: save the blue for last). It’s an exquisite feeling to “earn” the final three pieces of The Sea Puzzle, needing to flip the completed work to find the download code. The music, performed by Enrico Coniglio and Matteo Uggeri with the contributions of nine others, is similarly intriguing.
The album itself is like a puzzle. Just as one tends to fill in the edges first, the opening lyric (“Open to the sea”) dangles in the air until the closing track, where it finds consummation. But what lies between the edges of a day, of a life, of a suite? What colors, contraptions and communications decorate the interior? From sparkling static to siren moans to “stolen cello”, the album fills in piece by piece, like the beach at high tide. Snatches of conversation drift from a distant telephone. Trumpet and trombone offer languid commentary. On “Up Over the Harbour Lights”, Coniglio’s piano reverberates like a buried memory of some other lost summer, love lost to the sands of time, sea glass swept from the hand, reclaimed by the surf. There’s a bittersweet tone to this sea, a mingling of salt and tears. A keyboard issues a calliope sound on “I Am The Sea”, and one feels the longing, the drift.
The digital EP is a sweet bonus, beginning with “Never Too Early for Christmas Decorations – Pt.2”. (“Pt. 1” can be found on the 2017 Dronarivm New Year compilation Illuminations.) When one hears the chimes, one begins to think of Santa, but only because of the title. As the piece gently folds into the next, soothing female vocals return us to the sea once more. The softest parts of the song return us to the couple, arms draped around each other as they walk. The percussion imitates the waves as they crash, the struggles overcome in order to land on a blissful shore. This is where we want to spend the rest of our summer. Christmas can wait, but love can not. As the clacking of horses’ hooves is joined by cello in the closing piece, one imagines a return to an ordinary life that no longer seems mundane, thanks to the rich experience of the shore. (Richard Allen)