Ginevra Nervi ~ The Disorder of Appearances

A quick glance at the cover photo provides the impression that Ginevra Nervi is an intimidating eight feet tall, striding forward.  Look again ~ she’s standing still, and her shawl provides the illusion.  This is The Disorder of Appearances.  In like fashion, the artist has already released multiple film scores, singles, a vocal EP and a rework of that EP, but none alone indicate the incredible synergy of this set.  In effect, the artist has taken a huge stride forward, justifying our initial, albeit illusory perception.

The Disorder of Appearances draws from the artist’s filmic strengths while altering her vocal presence.  In approaching the album, her current fans will need to discard nearly everything they know.  The tracks are no longer straightforward (though even prior lyrics were allusive), but experiment with voice and tone or eschew vocals altogether.  The result is akin to a fever dream, a generous 73 minutes of sonic experimentation that skirts the border between the accessible and the avant garde.

Consider the contrast between the brief, impressionistic “Entrance One,” whose vocal tones yield shades of Katie Gately, and the shadowed, nuanced instrumental “Variable objects,” which beeps and grinds its way to a synthetic uprising.  Only a year removed from Klastós, the progression is astounding.  “Twelve” combines elements of each, embodying the philosophical equation “thesis + antithesis > synthesis.”  What Nervi is saying is less important than how she is communicating; the album rides a wave of mysterious, uncategorizable energy, notes pitched up and syllables pitched down, even the track titles seemingly out of order (“Twelve,” “Seven,” “Nine”).  “Nine” ends in a rising protuberance that sounds like a glitched CD, then tumbles into a multitracked choir.  An inner photo replicates the cover art as a negative.

Even when one has begun to expect the unexpected, the danceable, percussive “Twenty” (Track Eight!) comes as a welcome surprise, tribal drums accompanied by rain forest flocks.  Nervi has discovered many ways to intrigue and entertain, but there’s no substitute for a great dance beat.  While it may not be one of the set’s first singles, it has the highest crossover potential ~ not that this is something Nervi is seeking.  Her new sonic phase seems more interested in investigating how far the music of a single album can travel while retaining a common thread.

The numbers finally rise to the surface on “End one,” the third piece of a triptych (“Zero,” “Zero, Two, One”), children’s chants overlapping with a NASA countdown, a choir and spoken voice.  The piece is simultaneously grounded and disorienting, any concession to the mainstream dislodged again by the jumbled numbering.  Nervi suggests that nothing is as it appears on the surface. The album is nearly over when she begins to sing, but even then the lyric is not the central feature of the song.  The title “An interior of strange beauty” serves as its own statement, while the delivery lodges Nervi in the good company of Kate Bush and Tori Amos without sounding quite like either. When do we come from?

The Disorder of Appearances is heart and soul, gears and throat, dress and shawl, a shredding of expectations that celebrates “a multiverse within.”  Optical illusion aside, we’re returning to our initial impression: Ginevra Nervi is eight feet tall and rising.  (Richard Allen)

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