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Giuseppe Ielasi - Rhetorical Islands / Untitled (DC Motor) / or a set of models

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Artist: Giuseppe Ielasi

Album: Rhetorical Islands / Untitled (DC Motor) / or a set of models

Label: Senufo Editions

Review date: Aug. 5, 2013

To understand why Giuseppe Ielasi has put out around 10 releases in the last three years or so, turn to his Listed contribution from 2011. The list is full of insights into his influences, but one line stands out. When speaking of David Tudorís Neural Synthesis, he says, ďI find the idea of a composer/interpreter that decides to design a set-up and lose control over its behavior very inspiring.Ē While Ielasiís own music is far-off echo of Tudorís networked electronics, the common ground he finds with the American innovator is revealing. Namely, he has found an idiosyncratic, intuitive way to abandon all sense of conventional structure.

That open-ended quality stands out on all of Ielasiís releases from the last few years, but it comes into sharp relief on these three simultaneously released EPs. Rhetorical Islands, the longest of the three, barely exceeds thirty minutes in length, and the pieces range from a minute or so to maybe four minutes maximum. Untitled (dc motor) even does away with tracking, the CDís twenty minutes packed with about a dozen vignettes using the titular device and a low-frequency oscillator.

Nor do the origins of the recordings fit our usual conception of an album. (Or a set of motors) is a set of home experiments with a tape machine and household devices. Rhetorical Islands, the densest and most complex of the three, began life as a piece commissioned for a festival of electroacoustic works in France and ended up as ten complex mini-studies in asynchronous rhythms and tactile harmonies.

But rather than see the sketched out nature of these releases as incomplete, we should understand them as exactly what Ielasi is searching for. Heís not documenting a process; heís showing us detailed views of what he has accomplished. What heís accomplished just happens to lack, by our usual measures, overt form, reference to genre and other signifiers. For a period I was waiting for a more fully formed album to emerge from Ielasiís experiments, but now Iíve stopped. To fill out these brief glimpses, to link them to a bigger whole, would rob them of their vitality. What Ielasi has found is just too exciting, too engaging. These pieces need to stay loose and open-ended.

Crucially, heís reached this space without losing sight of what catches our ear in the first place. For one, thereís his elastic sense of time, which he builds by capturing all manner of rapid, aperiodic micro-rhythmic events, then layering them, often slightly out of phase, so that youíre never able to anticipate just how theyíll resolve, if they ever do. In flashes, especially on Rhetorical Islands, these rhythms almost cohere into something recognizable, echoing dub patterns or some dance-floor tropes. But I seriously doubt those resemblances are intentional. Most likely they were happy accidents that Ielasi chose to highlight for a brief spell. Usually the rhythms spill over into each other, constantly breeding new phrases and teasing, but never achieving, some sense of symmetry.

Then there are the timbres. Iealsi goes for acoustic and mechanical textures, preferring small sounds with sharp attacks and usually very little resonance. When there are longer, more extended sounds or tones, they come off as non-verbal vocalizations, mutant glossolalia and machine murmers. He also lets a healthy dose of room tone and extraneous tape hiss leak into the mix, which give the pieces a live feeling, even though itís hard to imagine just what instruments might be creating these sounds.

This contradiction sits at the heart of Ielasiís recent work. The textures and structures resemble, however tenuously, things we know, but they also come off as alien, inhuman. I find all of these releases compelling, compulsive listening, but itís hard to say immediately why. Maybe itís because they are musical without being Music, rich in ideas without being Conceptual, and exploratory without being Experimental. Maybe itís because they have, however distant and liminal, the ring of truth, captured in an instant of fleeting insight.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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