Attilio Novellino & Collin McKelvey ~ Métaphysiques cannibales

Matteo Castro’s mysterious cover art draws us into the release.  We’re already curious; what kind of music will this be?  As the two side-long tracks unfold, they defy prediction by resisting trajectory.  The album is acoustic and electronic, live and processed, convex and concave.  There’s no telling what comes next: dialogue samples, feedback, sudden rhythms.  This makes Métaphysiques cannibales an exciting listening experience, inverting expectations yet somehow managing to cohere by the end.  The album invites multiple spins to make sure nothing has been missed; such is its ample diversity.

Musique concrète is likely the best classification, although there’s a simpler way to regard the release: an imbrication of fascinating sounds.  Attilio Novellino & Collin McKelvey have been working together for a while now, and their work has achieved a noticeable sonic balance in that one cannot tell where the work of one composer ends and the other begins.  Some of their music is intensely musical, from dark ambient to electroacoustic drone to metallic industrial.  The end of Side A is reminiscent of old Test Dept.  But there’s also an element of found objects in the scraping and hitting, enough to say that if the duo is unable to find a suitable sound in their machines, they’re happy to invent it from scratch.

Side B tones the percussion down early to concentrate on subterranean vibrations; but then those voices emerge again, along with stalactite drips.  The segment seems like a sponge impression of Side A, an impression created by fold.  By the midpoint, a mechanical rhythm has taken center stage, but is soon offset by irreverent pulses who refuse to follow their cue.  The same holds true for the chords that ignore the computerized beeps, insistent on setting their own tempo.  Eventually the patterns seem to notice each other and adapt accordingly.  It’s a busy place, but there’s room for everybody.  The final thwarting of expectation occurs at 14:24, as a surprising clunk ends the trance.  Everything resets ~ new sources, new patterns, new timbres, a clock shop in which the batteries have all gone faulty.  For thirty seconds, a drummer gets to drum.  Has he been waiting all this time?  Suddenly, it’s a rock album ~ and then it’s over in a receding hum.  The patch of percussion is a window into a different recording, rejected in order to make room for this one.  Its presence is crucial, as a musical reaction can only be understood if one first understands what it is reacting to.  This final artistic wink ties a bow around the bag of sounds, enabling the listener to perceive the intentionality behind what might otherwise have been perceived as random.  (Richard Allen)

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