Over the 2006/2007 biennium Salvatore “Sam” Dellaria and Adam Sonderberg gathered and assembled recordings from a literal who’s who of inquisitive improvisers and composers, mostly from the advanced areas of EAI (names include Olivia Block, Jason Kahn, Tomas Korber, Eric Lanzillotta, Jon Mueller, Brendan Walls, Christian Weber to quote the most “famous”). The results are now available in 32 minutes for which adjectives like “stunning”, “mesmeric” and “anguishing” weigh equally.
In a milieu of partially tarnished harmonic contents, the prevailing impression is that there’s no way out of an unending obscurity. Sounds apparently coming from the viscera of the instruments take possession of the immediate environment straight away, causing a sense of uneasiness enhanced by the absolute lack of resolutions or, worse still for someone, sections to memorize. Everywhere – except perhaps the short opening track “Inlet” – a sort of gradual deterioration of the mood constitutes a prominent compositional trait, providing a necessary dose of slight precariousness which prevents the music to become just a flabby superimposition of disjointed elements.
Every detail appears carefully planned and executed, and the splendid stability between electronic and acoustic factors, connecting softness (say, a rhythmic low-frequency pulse as heard at the end of “Everywhere Present And Nowhere Visible”) and ruggedness (Jon Mueller’s instantly recognizable stridencies, for example), pushes aural exhausts and concrete threats in the same direction, a grey sky anticipating rainstorms that never begin. The overall scent of this record is therefore an organic one: we felt both swallowed up and authorized to pensive movement, needing to walk across the room while listening, hoarse murmurs and percussive parsimony marvellously mixing with the tinkling bells of the cows pasturing around the house, the abnormal pulsation of particular sound waves determining a sensible modification of the pressure on the membranes.
This meshing of mixed-media experimentalism and unvarnished ineluctability is a winning procedure throughout, attributing to Safety – the title a bizarre counter altar to such a non-serene, if introspective offering – a psychological influence which is typical of an album to remember for years to come.