Review of Solo Andata [12k1056]

Textura (.ORG)

Solo Andata’s (Australian duo Paul Fiocco and Kane Ikin) eponymous follow-up to its 2006 debut album Fyris Swan (Hefty) hews to a somewhat oblique narrative path suggested by its eight track titles. In keeping with the group’s name (which, translated from the Italian, means “one way”), the album traces a uni-directional movement from water to land and exploits binaries such as cold-hot and motion-stasis. The quasi-narrative grounds the album, then, but in a fairly open-ended manner that allows the listener to disregard the story if he/she chooses and attend to the slow-motion drift of the settings all by themselves (exquisitely designed, the release is complemented by a mini-booklet containing eight photographs by Taylor Deupree that visually reference the album tracks).

The opener “Ablation” supposedly situates itself on a boat in a cold arctic night, and as proof one can hear the distant sounds of seagull cries and the omnipresent churn of the boat’s engine. The piece turns into something truly remarkable, however, once the mournful tones of Louise McKay’s cello appear to augment the choral singing and the occasional piano accent. “Ablation” ultimately registers as a veritable master class in sound design and arrangement, with Solo Andata weaving its carefully-selected sounds into an eleven-minute mood piece of strikingly evocative character. With its humanizing presence and emotive warmth, McKay’s cello playing also elevates “Loom,” which tends towards a conventional musical form in its melancholy unfolding and emphasis on acoustic instrumentation (cello, acoustic guitar). The elegiac “Canal Rocks” presents what sounds like muffled French horn motifs caught in a cascading loop amidst amplified river flow. “Beyond This Window” finds light breaking on the horizon, drenching the sky in a golden hue, while waves beat against the tower’s walls. Piercing the watery flow, pinging bell tones give “Look For Me Here” a gamelan quality while the pluck and strum of an acoustic guitar adds a natural character to the setting. With the sounds of insects buzzing (presumably about a fresh carcass), birds chirping, and ground crackling underfoot front and center, “Woods Flesh Bone” makes imagining oneself traipsing through the woods on a sweltering hot summer afternoon the easiest thing in the world.

No information is given regarding sound sources or instrumentation used in producing the material—Solo Andata presumably wanting the music to speak for itself—but we’re told that the duo largely eschews electronic instruments for the sound-generating potential of acoustic instruments (guitar, piano, and cello, obviously); it should be said, however, that while nothing so anomalous as a synthesizer squeal is present, Solo Andata radically processes its source materials until they turn into sumptuously-textured set-pieces. Regardless of production methods or sound sources deployed, the album offers a remarkable exemplar of the soundscaping genre.

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