Tracey Feels Worse was released on November 6, 2020 by Elevator Bath, and I’m grateful to Colin Andrew Sheffield for giving me the opportunity to have a CD out on his label. It’s my first ever record release as a composer, and I still don’t know if it will remain my only one. I’ve collected comments on the music, received in the form of personal messages and reviews, on this page. I would like to thank everyone who dedicated at least 35 minutes of their precious time to listen to the sounds I created. (MR)
PRAISE FOR TRACEY
“Overall, a breathing, underlying quality, a wonderfully layered web with subtly unpredictable internal shifts and motion.” (Milo Fine)
“Your solo project is strikingly beautiful and inspiring! I love what you’re doing with timbres and the stereo spatialization, plus the long fade of the opening feels natural as it creeps in and envelopes. I highly encourage more of this!!” (Thomas Dimuzio)
“It is certainly ambience, and I think very effective ambience—though not in a Brian Eno sense, which is pretty much always cushiony and calming. (…) The sounds give me a feeling much like I get from Lynch’s Eraserhead—dark, slowly moving, deeply unnerving, and yet satisfying in some indescribable way.” (David Lee Myers)
“There’s a sense of an enormous complexity of activity beneath its relatively smooth surface (whether or not that complexity is actually there!), like a transparent skin through which the internal workings of teeming organisms can be glimpsed.” (Richard Barrett)
“The sounds and textures throughout the whole piece are super interesting and the overall development of the piece is great.” (Peter Van Huffel)
“I have enjoyed this album so much. It is very much of a 2020 sound: vast dark spaces, immersive.” (Elif Yalvaç)
“Tracy Feels Worse sounds very fitting for an installation, something in a cavernous space, playing back in a loop. It’s very rich; the acoustics of playback in a large echoic space would bring that out. As a standalone audio work, it’s demanding and calls for a particular mindset from the listener = to really listen, you have to be in the mood for it and in a place that has minimal distractions. For all those reasons, I like it a lot and am very glad to have it.” (John Duncan)
“If this is the sort of thing you are capable of – and I have long suspected this – then I hope we won’t have to wait a few decades for the next one.” (James Hamilton)
“So haunting.” (Erik Griswold)
“Wow, that is dark! Very appropriate for these times.” (William Basinski)
“This piece of yours works better at a medium to low volume: better presence and balance, considering the very clear mids and the misty character of the hiss and imagined lows at that volume level.” (Francisco López)
“My impressions were impacted unexpectedly by one thing, turning the volume up. At lower volume, while at my desktop doing some work, very nice ambient clouds of undetectable presence, dynamics and tones shifting but without as much definition. When played at a higher volume, very loud in fact, the details are more in evidence and the dynamic stronger and yet it is still ambient, in some places drone… overall, and as I said on the radio program, the audio seems ghostly, or like foggy memories reappearing in the mind’s eye.” (Phillip B. Klingler aka PBK)
“It’s quite immersive and spatial… It felt as if a bigger sound, a sharper element is about to emerge all throughout. It kind of felt empty as well as wholesome.” (Pantea Armanfar)
“Remarkable piece. I love the sense of evaporated distance and almost airless stasis. For me it’s like a living non-space, perpetually exhaling.” (Paul Schütze)
“Fabulous. It’s been stuck in the CD player all day. It immediately gave me that thing (…) where I actually feel … TERROR! It’s a sure sign I’m going to really dig the music, man. They burnt Giordano Bruno for insisting on an infinite universe, and you are another Italian heretic who says the material universe is infinite. (…) The music is totally smoothed and polished off to remove all incidental detail, it’s like a pebble on the beach, there’s no holds for incidental, spurious associations, except it contains whorls and holes that are utterly strange, like plasma photographed in outer space. It gives you the nausea of vertigo as you realise it could go on forever, yet it’s never tight or boring like Minimalism, Ambient or Drone – where you see a petty social function, and feel cheated – it creates ever-expanding vistas … but at the same time, conflicts between open-throat holy choirs and spaceship rumble (…) and perceptual twists inject a dark, sharp, mocking irony that chuckles at me (…). It’s all shaped by hand, I can feel human intuitive timing like a hand on a rudder, but the waters of the Styx are black and choppy – and we may be riding on the back of a horrible and hungry leviathan. It recedes because we recede, not because it does. Fantastic. It fits no formats.” (Ben Watson)
“An extraordinary piece” (Kevin Press)
“The music is fantastically unsettling: the very first thing that struck me was the fascinatingly elusive movement in the stereo image (the fades and pans constantly slipping from grasp like the strange loops of Shepard tones); and then the quality of the sound matter itself, morphing between sheer unfamiliarity and strange organic resemblance, evoking that particular feeling of being faced with something indescribably abstract that I find in certain passages in Kayn and Tietchens (not that it actually *sounds* like either, but it definitely has a similar effect on me). Highly inspiring work, I hope it will find appreciative listeners”. (Hannu Nuotio)
The Sound Projector
Massimo Ricci turns in a single 35:01 piece of swirligating sound art on Tracey Feels Worse. It seems the starting point was recordings that he made in 1984, which between that date and now – a period of some 36 years – were subjected to various forms of change. Beyond that we don’t know very much, as Ricci elects to remain mysterious and silent about his tapes, his methods, and even any implied significance or content we might derive from these cavernous groans and howling wind effects. At this juncture it might be germane to mention that Ricci is primarily a music writer, and this is in fact his first published piece of sound art. I’ve never read a word of his prose, which is surprising as I’m informed he’s very prolific and has written about a vast amount of different kinds of music in his time. From the press notes here, we get glimpses of a real no-nonsense tough guy who spurns the fantasies and dreams we mere humans might spin for ourselves to comfort our bleak and empty lives, and if this is halfway true I’d suppose his reviews are bracingly factual in their approach. In particular, he hates “false spirituality”, so might lean towards the humanist school of philosophy.
All of this produces an odd contradiction; I feel we’re being invited to speculate about the source of this 1984 tape (which apparently is something incredibly simple) and the musique-concrète method by which it was altered, while the author himself denies any such speculation, and indeed would probably suppress it if he could. Tracey Feels Worse is certainly a distinctive-sounding hollow drone, but feels like it’s been extended and expanded into something longer than it really needs to be. Great disconcerting cover art; a human face (?) rendered unrecognisable by a very extreme digital blur. Limited to 150 copies in this digipak edition. (Ed Pinsent)
Much like the prolific music criticism on his Touching Extremes website, Massimo Ricci’s first ever recordings to be released are a unique combination of ambiguity and pure no-bullshit bluntness. Consisting of material sourced from 1984 and heavily reworked in the four decades that followed, there is a purity in his approach that makes bleak, repetitive structure all the more fascinating.
Tracey Feels Worse is a single 35 minute piece that structurally remains constant throughout: wave-like swells of indeterminate sound come and go hypnotically, with consistent, though microscopic, changes occurring throughout. Ricci opens with metallic low-end sweeps with slow evolution apparent from the start. He expands the sound with reverberations liberally applied throughout and increasing over time. There is an overall bleakness throughout, but never does it come across as overly depressive or plodding. The sound becomes more enveloping, the intensity builds, resulting in an excellent sense of disorientation. The change seems so slow at first but by the end the difference seems dramatic. Not to draw too many comparisons to other artists, but the purity of sound and the approach to repetition is not so far removed from some of David Jackman’s more recent works.
From his style of writing and the sound and presentation of the disc, I do not believe the ambiguity that runs throughout Tracey Feels Worse is necessarily intentional, or at all essential, to the album. It strikes me as being a work of pure sound exploration, without any sort of hidden theme or social commentary or conceptual intent. Given that approach to sound rarely exists outside of the world of harsh noise, it is refreshing to hear it in something more understated and nuanced. Of course I had natural curiosity throughout of what the source recordings were, how they were being processed (since no loops or samples were used), but in the end that knowledge is in no way needed to justify or appreciate the work. (Creaig Dunton)
Lost In A Sea Of Sound
Emptiness exists when all things are removed. Sounds by Massimo Ricci surf the borders of this vacuum. There is difficulty in knowing if Tracey Feels Worse is a shuttering sonic breath at the final stages of all energy being drained? Are these sounds relevant to the chemical combination at the beginning, or is this the essence of existence melted down and channeled to our ears? Ricci could have these answers or be laughing at the misdirection of the above thoughts since this could be just a modified recording of his oscillating house fan.
Before the Second Listen:
After a long walk in the rain with the dog, impressions of Tracey Feels Worse continued to echo in thoughts. Thinking about this composition for most of the hike, there was no revelation to come back and pen connecting these words to Ricci’s body of sonic work. For some reason I did think about holding my Dad’s hand when he passed away five years ago and this made me appreciative. Then, maybe i understood a little… Ricci pushed these sounds out after a long period of time, many years. And at this point there is no sense in deciphering how they were made or even why this composition came to be. An artist creates for their own reasons, those who spend time to absorb this energy create new connections the artist will never know.
Tracey Feels Worse holds a basking energy. The ominous tones lend towards lost souls searching for the way to move on. But this is only from being “conditioned” as a music listener. Why are major keys associated with bright and happy while minor keys bring the ghosts about? This composition has neither, but in the same aspects of key association, the sounds within Tracey Feels Worse are generally more connected with desolation than a garden of flowers glowing in sunlight. Still trying to reverse the condition sound of associations, but this will require therapy.
The thirty five minutes of sounds Ricci has composed is never uncomfortable, but listening through these few times has made the composition more comfortable with the surrounding world. It is difficult to pull associations or descriptions holding values in the natural world, but I am going to… Tracey Feels Worse is an island surrounded by both fog and jagged seas. We can experience this aural anomaly from the safe distance provided. Wondering what lives on this island will escort thoughts in new directions, promote conversations of shallow incite and wild conjecture. The true value of Ricci’s composition is the exemplary place it exposes in the need to both qualify and quantify everything. After spending time both listening and attempting to describe the sounds within, Tracey Feels Worse has clearly taught me some sounds are for expanding thoughts not mental compartments. (Ken Lower)