Sound artists Gianluca Favaron and Anacleto Vitolo continue to explore the intersection of technology and nature on Overgrowth, an album whose timbre is easily recognizable as their own, yet contains some distinct surprises. Once again, the mastering is pristine and the stereo effects intricate; to sit between speakers is to feel as if the performers are in the room.
“Roots and wires” opens the set with subtle percussion, reluctant to tip its hand. The heavy crashes are saved for “Carbosilicon machines,” but then they retract. In saving the greatest density for later in the set, the duo reflects the idea of overgrowth.
Who was Cathy Berberian? The dedication of “Hybrid,” combined with the opera snippets, sent us to Wikipedia. If you knew she was a famous Italian mezzo-soprano, we are humbled. To hear her in this context is exceedingly bizarre; scuttles, crashes and whooshes seem a mismatch to her tones. Then we learned that her repertoire included “morse code and comic book sounds,” and gained new appreciation for a maverick artist unconstrained by convention. Although she’s been gone for nearly three decades, one can imagine “Hybrid” being something she’d enjoy.
Now back to the concept, communicated through titles such as “Simulacra” and “Plastiglomerate.” Just as forests can experience overgrowth, so can the technological world, which in our lifetimes has undergone unprecedented acceleration. The speed of advances is represented here through a growing thicket of sound. As the artists write, technology is devoid of intention; it only works or doesn’t. While not the first to comment on the soulless facets of modernity, Favaron and Vitolo go “all in” painting a sonic picture. There’s little emotion to be found here, save for a vague sense of foreboding. Only in “Wind Map” do the sounds of nature become apparent, as one might expect from the title: soft precipitation, the rustle of wind chimes, cautious percussive taps.
By the end, one feels two competing reactions: that technology has gotten away from us, and that in the right hands, it can still be imbued with meaning. By taming these machines, Favaron and Vitolo imply that overgrowth need not be a problem, as long as there are pruners about. (Richard Allen)