Giuseppe Ielasi: The Wire (2009)
“I had one turntable and lots of records from my collection,” Giuseppe Ielasi explains, discussing a pair of solo 12”s entitled Stunt and (Another) Stunt. “What I was interested in doing was to create some rhythms or grooves, mostly by playing with the styles or the speeds. But not by using rhythmic records. For instance a hiphop composition would create a groove sampling a funk record or whatever. I was interested in taking an Improv record and trying to create a groove, a drum solo or a guitar solo and then cutting small pieces to try to give it a composed shape.”

The result is a peculiar hybrid of Improv and turntablism: skittering, syncopated rhythms intersect with discrete sounds, forming volatile collages that mutate into temporary grid-like shapes and lattice patterns. “There is one piece which is actually really rhythmic, but all of the samples are played live from contemporary music records,” Ielasi laughs. “And a lot of the bass drums are not bass drums, but me dropping the stylus on the record. In that sense it’s very close to turntablism - but a very rough kind. I've never practised on the turntable.”

The 12”s depart from the trio of albums that preceded them (Gesine, Untitled and August, 2005—07), which layered acoustic guitar, drones and electronic loops and textures in elegantly melodic arrangements. But, as Ielasi points out, rhythms are lurking presences in most of his albums, dating all the way back to 2003's Plans. The two Stunts were divided by Aix, released by 12k earlier this year, which arrived at similar if less unstable conclusions, without the aid of a turntable. Their rhythmic bent is prefaced by 2007's Bellows, a by turns playful and abrasive electronic duo with Nicola Ratti.

Dividing his time between Milan, where he has lived since his teenage years, and the south of France, Ielasi has been an important catalyst in the ongoing renaissance of underground music in Italy over the past decade. In addition to frequent mastering duties for for the Alga Marghen and Die Schachtel labels, he has released albums by or collaborated with improvisors like Domenico Sciajno, Renato Rinaldi and Alessandro Bosetti, as well as avant rock musicians like Andrea Belfi, and Claudio Rocchetti, Stefano Pilia and Valerio Tricoli of 3/4HadBeenEliminated. "I know all of those people quite well,” he relates. "We played together and shared bills, though not in recent years. I did a lot of technical work on their music, mixing, mastering, co-producing. Musically I don’t think I’m part of that scene, but I’m really glad that it’s become a very active one.”

Ielasi was instrumental in the formation of the Bowindo imprint, and for the better part of a decade ran the Fringes distribution service and label. After a period spent managing the music section of a Milan bookstore, he started Schoolmap. "Most of the Fringes releases were by friends or people I’d coliaborated with. It was very related to my activity as a musician. Schoolmap is run by two people, me and Francesco [Tenaglia]. We actively take part in the production side, deciding what kind of projects we’re interested in and collaborating with visual artists on the artwork, with much better promotion. But the market and distribution has changed so much that Fringes was actually selling really well but Schoolmap is a bit of a disaster,” he comments ruefully. So even though we’re much more professional, we lose money.”

IeLasi’s duo with Ratti is stili active, but his lengthiest collaboration is with Renato Rinaldi. It is documented on just two albums, both titled Oreledigneur - a low-key Improv outing from the late 1990s, with saxophonist Alessandro Bosetti guesting, and a 2004 duo album on Bowindo. The two also work in an audiovisual collaboration with photographer in an audiovisual collaboration with photographer Armin Linke. For the most part Ielasi’s releases have been mostly one-off duos and groups, electronics summits and sporadic flirtations with electroacoustic Improv.

“I played exclusively improvised music, for about a decade, from the early 90s,” he explains. “I got less and less interested in live improvised music after Plans. It’s still a very important practice to me, most of the sounds and rough material for my solo music comes from improvised sessions, but I’m not interested any more in improvised music as a genre and fixed practice. I still play in improvised contexts from time to time, but I try to incorporate a lot of prerecorded material in those sessions, which gets remixed and reprocessed.”

Ielasi plans a further development of his rhythmic approach of Aix, and has begun work on a composition reflecting his long-term interest in electroacoustic music and musique concrète, which ”has always been one of my main obsessions”, he confesses. “What I have in mind when I mix a track or a record is the use of space, the use of different planes, background and foreground, changes in the stereo image. All of that’s important in musique concrète. It’s very different from the typical rhythmic approach, it’s not about making the bass drum sound louder or stronger or making the groove cut clearly. I’m more and more interested in not necessarily rhythm but the ideas of pulsation and pulses - polyrhythms. For me it’s about making a strange balance of the planes of the image. That’s what I’m interested in, the spatial qualities of the sound.”
Giuseppe Ielasi