“Expropriation and reappropriation,” the text that accompanies Osvaldo Coluccino’s Neuma Q, is densely written and rendered even more impenetrable by translation into English. In navigating through phrases like “imperceptible osmotic pluridimensionality,” however, one can discern a theme in Coluccino’s writing. The Italian composer and electro-acoustician speaks of non-space, a removal of the influence and/or suggestion of a physical space or environment on sound. This results, for Coluccino, in a revealing of the unheard and unnoticed, those sounds we fail to discern due to physiological limits and inattentiveness brought to the fore. Such conceptual and theoretical buttressing can be perilous to consider too deeply: one may begin to contemplate Colucciono’s puzzling prose to the detriment of his or her listening. Neuma Q‘s strength is in its alien ineffability, the sounds conjured in Coluccino’s non-spaces being more powerful than the words used to describe them.
The first of Neuma Q‘s four untitled tracks is the album’s best. A 16-minute extraterrestrial walkabout, the composition evokes the incidental acoustic inhabitants of outer space. Scrambled satellite signals, celestial swirls, the mechanics of interstellar craft float freely around ambient tones in an almost episodic form. Sounds pass through the foreground of the track almost as if on display, sent past on a conveyor belt, or released from behind a curtain in a choreographed series, like models in a fashion show. Overlap occurs, but there’s little crowding, and even less repetition. The (non-) space that the sounds inhabit is itself on display, a suggested vacuum that’s as much an active character in the music as the setting it negates.
Neuma Q‘s third track flirts with the opener’s aesthetic, albeit in more microscopic form. Coluccino avoids even the slightest of augmentation to the sounds, leaving even more of an emptiness behind them while heightening the exhibitive qualities of the music. It’s a less successful variation on a similar tack, with the lack of accompanying ambience and less distance implied between the listener and the sounds and amongst the sounds themselves. Coluccino’s ability to make something from nothing, or very little, at least, feels abandoned here in a track that is (relatively) too straightforward and without mystery.
When working within a more straightforwardly ambient vein, Coluccino retains an aversion to stacking sound. Whereas some find minimalist manna via copious layering and the surprises that emerge in the mix, Coluccino remains fixated on a few sounds at a time, with focus and transitions more transparent. The disc’s second track is a four-minute milky way as viewed from Earth, its gossamer gleam easily invisible at times to those who don’t purposefully search it out. There’s a hidden power, however, in this understated approach. Often, one may find Neuma Q intermingling with the sounds of the listener’s own surroundings in unexpected collaboration. Even with headphones on, there’s a bleed between Coluccino’s creation and the droning traffic, hum of appliances, occasional chatter and distant airplanes overhead. Intentional or not, this intermixing of environments is perhaps Neuma Q‘s most effective negation of space, a subtle dissolving of the walls between the output of the disc and that occurring outside of the window or in another room. It’s an experience that isn’t constant, but can be bewitching when it occurs.