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Claudia Bonarelli - Everything Happens Only a Certain Number of Times

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Artist: Claudia Bonarelli

Album: Everything Happens Only a Certain Number of Times

Label: Mitek

Review date: Oct. 14, 2002

Identity isis?

On first listen, it seems that everything happens too many times on Claudia Bonarelli's new minimal techno album, with noise motifs sticking like friezes in hollow dub funnels of reverb. Repeated listenings, however, reveal the way her compositions work, as events swirl in eddies around locked grooves that make up the center of these tracks.

Here, changes are so small that the songs flow by as background clatter, while their structures teeter from side to side in the shackles of Lee Perry-esque production. Bonarelli has much in common with dub producers like King Tubby: sub-harmonics rule the day on this album. She usually doesn't write compelling songs; rather, the pieces on this album act as sonic playgrounds where the klang of mischievous swing sets randomly rattle in the wind.

"Gender" is a great example of Bonrelli's work - a repetitive, sparse groove dominates the first four minutes, so swamped in the surrounding earth you hardly notice the moving changes in tempo and pitch. "Channels" throws in more subtle ambient noises, a la Motion or Kit Clayton, with a poppy, more optimistic feel, until a war drum begins to beat and the happier slips of ambient bliss become the whines of an electronic battlefield. The piece then drops off into a minute's meditation before returning to its original ambient theme, only this time less whole and more affected.

The mystery behind the Claudia Bonarelli name makes the songs seem somehow political. It may be a pen name, or it could refer to a collective. As Thomas Pynchon writes it in Mason and Dixon, "to understand that my name had never been my own,- rather belonging, all this time, to the Authorities, who forbade me to change it, or withhold it, as ‘twere a Ring upon the Collar of a Beast...”

Everything..., then, becomes a statement of identity, combining the political and the personal. Track names like "commune", "feminist", "[Raoul] Vaneigem", "Gender", and "Manifesto" reinforce the sense that this album is a sonic essay on identity politics and repression. The ties with dub also seem to support this theory, as dub and reggae have long been used as platforms of political protest.

Perhaps, then, dub is simply Bonarelli’s format to voice political rhetoric. Her work is a repetition of material already recorded, but now reworked to greater effect. But what do the liminal changes in her compositions represent? And how does this album connect with the situationist thought of Raoul Vaneigem?

By Andrew Jones

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