Three Good Ones From Presto!?

Presto!? is an Italian label run by Lorenzo Senni, the three releases in my possession (part of a catalogue of nine at this moment) dressed by sober white mini-gatefold sleeves with graphics that are definable as “chicly Spartan”. Things look promising enough on a first listen: I don’t smell a trace of snobbishness or arrogant dilettantism anywhere, the artists’ respectability a certification in that sense. Hopefully, Lorenzo is aiming higher (read “deeper”) than many of his presumptuous countrymen in terms of detached judgement of the effective necessity (and meaning) of what’s being produced. An encouraging start.

JOHN HUDAK – On And On

As it frequently occurs with Hudak, the structures introduced this time are decidedly elementary, in spite of the fact that the piece was motivated by the singing of a bird (more precisely, a black-capped chickadee) and that the final outcome depends on a computer, which “simplified” hours of continuous guitar strumming into a numeric potion containing the basic pitch information plus duration and timbre, the composer using this sequence to trigger a pseudo-dulcimer of sorts. As partially complex as the process may appear the 70 minutes flow smoothly, the music not exactly carving holes in the heart yet glowing of the same innocence of children when they bang those chunky little hands on a toy piano, the deriving plink-plonking a symbol of their sensible transparency in the first approach with an instrument. This CD comprises a sympathetically peaceful kind of consonant minimalism – halfway through a musical box and a slightly de-synchronized sequencer – which these ears salute with a smile, not asking for help to an already strained tolerance. I would not rule out, in worthwhile occasions, the use of On And On in “repeat” mode as mind-calming background: a very gracious, almost reassuring presence indeed.

LAWRENCE ENGLISH / TOM HALL – Euphonia

An ambient-oriented collaboration recorded in the first half of 2008, born from “various instruments, analog equipment, electronics” and – especially – the modification of what was achieved in the studio via a process of re-recording the existing sounds in peculiar environments such as “dilapidated water tanks on a farm”. Euphonia owes a lot to Eno, its best functionality enjoyable at just about perceptible volume, gentle vaporizations of morphing audio waves gradually gliding in and out the hearing range, leaving a chance for the transitory manifestations of real life’s unavoidable incidences to have a say in the overall consequence. Seven tracks whose lone implication is probably their sheer existence, not requiring a specialist’s degree to identify with the inherent structures, which – apart from a couple of instances in which a slightly more pronounced tendency to pulse is observable, an embryo of melodic movement coming to the forefront – are expressly designed to fluctuate, drift and waver, hiding the basic components to appear as a lattice of inorganic matters which nevertheless constitute an adequate balm for dead beat membranes. English and Hall managed to produce a useful CD despite the evident overpopulation of this musical area, which is a praiseworthy result per se.

WERNER DAFELDECKER – Long Dead Machines I-IX

This concise cycle for solo double bass by Dafeldecker apparently sounds as crude as the noise of metastatic lungs. At first one notices the percussive factor: in 29 minutes, not a single straight pitch, I mean something reproducible via humming “tones”. Add to this the persistently unremitting repetition of each rhythmic contour – track in, track out – and here’s a model of really severe starkness which does not leave a millimetre of space to anything remotely resembling “aural gratification”. This is the end of the description for those who approach this kind of matter shallowly. Now come to me, discerning people: this is a great record. Dafeldecker doesn’t give a damn about pleasing an audience – he’s looking for places in which the combinations of fingers, arco, strings and wood introduce those resonances that regular ears usually overlook, the implicit musicality of a crucial metrical code, the wonderful if short-lived aura of harmonics that are emitted when the instrument is hit in a certain spot. It’s there that the bass sings and breathes, and it’s also there that you will start distinguishing the dozens of patterns, crackles, swishes, whispers, bumps and knocks that Long Dead Machines keeps in custody. A nonconformist opus which demonstrates how a real musician works: finding a way of making music even through the most rudimentary elements – the same essentials that anyone could become aware of just by observing (that’s right – almost no one observes, much less listen anymore) – which get changed into righteous acoustic painting. Play extra loud, and fill the silences with your own vibrations and pulses.

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