Thursday, 24 April 2014

Valerio Tricoli - Miseri Lares (PAN)

Deliberately forgetting every reference to instrumental causes or pre-existing musical significations, we then seek to devote ourselves entirely and exclusively to listening, to discover the instinctive paths that lead from the purely "sonorous" to the purely 'musical'. Such is the suggestion of acousmatics: to deny the instrument and cultural conditioning, to put in front of us the sonorous and its musical 'possibility''.
                                                                                                                                        - Pierre Schaeffer

Few of us can totally escape the effects of cultural conditioning. Even a determined refusal to comply is a reaction to it. Valerio Tricoli's Miseri Lares requires the devotion to listening championed by Pierre Schaeffer. Theoretically, in an age when so many listen via ear buds, this should be easier than ever before. We are no longer tied to 'phones that were the size of half a melon and in turn needed to be connected to the record player. This is a blessing for those who wish to hear richly detailed music, but for most it will not have changed their listening habits, only increased the impact of trademark sound elements in mainstream genres.

Ambitions to make radical variations of common forms such as Techno or Ambient are not scarce, although few truly cross the border from genre specific traits to the great beyond. Bound by what they know or were raised on, artists operating left of center can rarely escape the magnetic pull of that core.

Thankfully, PAN has its cake and eats it. It releases variations on rhythm machine themes and records like this. But what is this like? Musique concrète is one reference point, Tricoli manipulating the Revox tape recorder. Acousmatic music is another. Precise definitions of that may be elusive yet in Miseri Lares there is something of the attention to sonic detail found in work by prime exponents such as Francois Bayle and Bernard Parmegiani. Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell's outstanding soundtrack to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre may be another influence, such is the atmosphere of dread created by Tricoli via unknown sound sources.

But this album is much more than just another Horror film soundtrack homage. Tricoli exploits the unknown musically and psychologically. He nudges the listener towards that closed door at the end of the corridor, or to look behind that red velvet curtain beloved by David Lynch. Words in Italian and English are carefully woven into the work, including texts by Dante and Guido Ceronetti, as well as H.P. Lovecraft and Tricoli.

The sound of a trap door swinging open on La Distanza is more unsettling than the loudest scream. A door is knocked, then thumped and slammed shut. Briefly, on Hic Labor Ille Domus et Inextricabilis, we hear something like a deep sea diver's breathing. That would be fitting. Not the heavy breath of fear, but the finite supply of air in these very deep waters. Not that Tricoli applies common modes of pressure, the clichés of brutal noise or drilling synths. Parts of In The Eye of The Cyclone consist of near or total silence and as in much of the record what we do hear is indefinable.

By refusing to supply the obvious Horrorcore sonic thrills Tricoli has generated a profoundly unsettling soundtrack to whatever we imagine may be happening. His use of techniques pioneered by tape and studio masters of old, twinned with the subtle appliance of modern science, make this a stunning piece of work.

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