zolfo – a closer listen

76f6cf36-93f7-4e26-a78e-31b2dc0f9934Crispy, crunchy, and crackly ~ these are the sounds of Zolfo.  In real life, we hear such sounds in crumpling paper and leaves underfoot.  In the electronic realm, they surface in cellphones, computers and amplifier feedback.  Blend organic and electronic, as Gianluca Favaron and Anacleto Vitolo have done, and one will hear a padded melange, thicker than the timbres one is accustomed to hearing outside of a factory setting.  So yes, that may be a church bell in the title track, stuttered and looped ~ but it may be the imitation of a church bell, the mind struggling to define and categorize what it is hearing.

To prepare this album, the artists used a wide variety of sources, from cymbals to laptops, along with the vague term “objects”.  Favaron in particular is enamored with decontextualization.  Just because something sounds like a singing bowl (“Infrasound”) doesn’t mean it is a singing bowl; and if it is, Favaron and Vitolo have found a new purpose for its thrum.  And all the while, drones and hums intrude, eager to colonize the sonic field, while glitches and pops decorate the drones like sparkling debris in a raging river.

This is the thicker, busier end of the electroacoustic spectrum, a genre that lacks distinguishing tags, simply because there is so little of it.  I call it particle accelerator music (PAM), as it sounds like agitated atoms.  “Oblivion” highlights a scuttling sound, like that of the crablike creature racing across the floor in the medical lab of Aliens.  Because the sonic field is constantly in motion, it’s hard to get a handle on the heart of these compositions; one drinks them like carbonation.  On “Fold-in”, a welcome warmth is added by bells and horns, although the title makes one think of an egg dropped in batter.  Thankfully, the metaphor fits.  “Reflection” seems to contain power tools, sirens and broken glass, intimating a shattered mirror, or by extension, a shattered sense of self.  Only in the album’s closing seconds does humanity make an appearance: pleasant banter and laughter, the lab coats packed away, the atoms free to collide, no longer performing under watchful eyes. (Richard Allen)

Advertisements