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Å / Angelo Petronella / Christa Pfangen - Å / Sintesi da un diario / Watch me getting back the end

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Artist: Å / Angelo Petronella / Christa Pfangen

Album: Å / Sintesi da un diario / Watch me getting back the end

Label: Die Schachtel

Review date: Apr. 12, 2007

Italy’s Die Schachtel imprint is best known for their pioneering reissue projects. Rescuing objects from the Italian underground that would have been seriously coveted if anyone actually realized they existed, the label’s attention to detail is peerless, bringing their releases closer to gallery editions than anything as offensive as commerce. These three releases constitute the first entries in their Zeit series, dedicated to new music. They’re all as fascinating as the label’s reissue projects, though they may not carry quite the same air of exposed secrets.

Å are an ‘unknown trio’ from Italy, and their membership comprises Andrea Faccioli, Paolo Marocchio and Stefano Roveda. While they evidently indulge in extended, rambling improvisations, the three-piece have wisely called in Xabier Iriondo to bolt together the material, splicing phantom structures from source recordings. Certain tendencies within Å’s armory are a little clumsy - some rockist guitar derails the promising beginning, though it is eventually glitched to smithereens, and the drumming can feel labored, as though it cannot work its way out of rhythm’s straightjacket. On the 15-minute “Something A Long Time Ago…,” Å move between registers - slow, molten string drones; slippery, abstract non-rock; rolling guitars and whispered voices that collect like dust underneath pattering drums. With the pieces falling into place in such an assured manner, the trio hook into a continuum of fractured, modular construction that’s reminiscent of This Heat, a much less anally retentive Slint, or Twenty Six’s This Skin Is Rust.

Angelo Petronella’s debut album Sintensi da un diario offers ‘acousmatics and field recordings’ that display a clear debt to previous musique concrete practitioners. Thankfully, his deft hand at editing and arrangement pushes this disc beyond by-rote impersonation, even if at times one hankers for more definitive, brain-bending compositions. Anyone working within musique concrete will struggle against the privileging of the genre’s history, and Petronella doesn’t escape totally unscathed, as his digital renderings lose out when compared to the burred and notched surfaces of 1950s and ‘60s originals. The recordings of children playing that course through the four variants on “Tratto” are too predictable, but Petronella deploys voice more powerfully elsewhere, in the slurring queasiness of “Tratto 1” and the juddering breaths and sighs that open “Un Canto.” And the way he moves between split-second magnifications and mid-traffic breakdowns, as on “Lamento,” is rather startling.

Christa Pfangen comprise Mattia Coletti and Andrea Belfi, two renegades from Italy’s resurgent, ever-expanding underground. Belfi has already released several stunning solo discs: 2003’s Ned no2 on Chocolate Guns, and last year’s superlative Between Neck and Stomach, for Häpna. Watch me getting back the end isn’t quite as powerful as Belfi’s solo albums, and at first it appears rather slight. Many of the songs appear half-formed, as though Belfi and Coletti have stripped the core from the composition after dressing its body. After a few listens, however, this tactic becomes the album’s winning streak.

The duo rely on a rather minimal core of instruments and gestures - the rough hum of a harmonium; splintered acoustic guitars that shift from stubby single-note runs to brashly strummed chords, and skittering drums that accent at the oddest moments. This narrowed focus gives the album an aesthetic consistency all the weirder for its simultaneous overarching sense of structural evacuation. This comes off as quite a conscious tactic, rather like Gastr del Sol in some ways, and like that group’s records, Watch me getting back at the end is intellectual without being cold or clinical, and skeletal without feeling emaciated, offering up more questions than it gives answers. Perhaps the reference to Nico’s birth name, Christa Pfangen, connects the album with another set of songs that have had their center rudely removed: The Marble Index.

By Jon Dale

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