What is real? The question has intrigued philosophers throughout the ages and is a prime inspiration for sci-fi, fantasy and comic book creators. Every new era brings a new twist on the question, the latest cluster including digital media, bots and fake news. Giulio Aldinucci has investigated such themes before, but never with such intention as he does here. This time, when one hears the faint echoes of choirs nestled in electronic drones, one feels the tug-of-war. One side sings of a higher purpose and a deeper connection. The other purrs, modern, convenient, now.
Aldinucci writes that Real is “a reflection on … the ability we have to create new realities transmuting the soundscape around us and the inner soundscape inside us, even only by imagining it.” The cover art toys with this concept; is there really a place with a pool so high it looks down at the clouds? The mind says that such a place should be frozen; the imagination asks, “Why be so particular?” The tape case, folded out, provides no further clues, although the track titles “As the Horizon Disappears” and “Mythological Void” hint at a surrealistic intersection.
The organ tones and choral samples convey the call of the ancient, often lost in the bustle of the new. As society grows exponentially more reliant on digital media, its inherent pitfalls grow more apparent: manipulated photos, trolls, catfishing, fabricated stories whose retractions are never read, swept away by a viral wave. Aldinucci seems less interested in communicating a warning (although some tracks, especially “Mythological Void,” grow exceedingly dark) than in proposing an alternative. In the strongest segments ~ for example, the ending of “Smoke Over the River” or the worshipful snippets of “Hyperobject A” ~ the electronic elements retract to reveal an organic residue. Yet the clouds never completely clear. A completely organic ending might have been more hopeful, but Aldinucci holds to his principles, splaying the question across the chords. (Richard Allen)