Review of August [12k1044]

Tokafi (.COM)

Ielasi plays the cymbals of his metaphors with a soft brush: An album with a broken heart.

Any kind of art has an inherent problem. While it needs to magnify a particular perception in order for it to become apparent, this process also distorts reality. Call it the curse of relativity or compare it to the inability of the microphone to remain impartial. Either way the phenomenon prevents music from ever becoming a true representation of the audio-emotional space around us. On his latest release, Giuseppe Ielasi suggests ways to circumvent this dilemma.

August is, however, neither an intellectual construct nor a concept album. With all five compositions remaining untitled, it can not be called programmatic either. Even its title refers less to a kind of seasonal mood or pre-autumnal depression than to the month its creation process began. Very much in the tradition with his previous work – and, as aficionados seem to agree, this may be the only tradition in the work of a man who tries on different methods and techniques with each record – it is up to the listener to make up the exact meaning. Freed from any kind of fixed ideologies or goals, the music as such retains its spot in the limelight. And this is where Ielasi grabs his chance for a unified approach.

For the mere fact that a composer does not provide his listeners with a set of associations or images from the start, does not make his pieces abstract. Quite organically, August is a soulful album, a concise collection of tracks revolving around affairs of the heart. Giuseppe Ielasi plays the cymbals of his metaphors with a soft brush, he awards a dreamlike quality to his soft drones, a profound depth to his bass notes and an affective resonance to his overlapping piano reveries. An ambiance between sorrow and consolation binds them together in works, which never need long to get to the point and linger in that sensation for the rest of their duration once they’re there.

The coherence of its psychology is counterpointed by the colourfulness of the arrangements found on August. The debut movement, on the one hand, is a multipart pastiche, which reaches out to many different genres at the same time: It opens with a sustained tone, which grows in volume, reaches a hickup-point, collapses and immediately starts growing again. Gradually, slightly offset developments in deeper registers fill the frequential spectrum, while a finely chased metallic polishing sound provides for fragile friction areas. Out of nothing, a fretless bass enters the picture, cool and with an air of groove and jazz, before surrendering to a classical piano motive caught in a self-hypnotical feedback loop.

On the other hand, the third piece on the album melts singular notes and short, harmonic trumpet phrases into a minimal carpet, which searches for rest rather than development.

Similarly, the album is unafraid of going from very quiet passages to moments when voluminous organ thrusts and growling distortion lift the music to a brutal climax. Ielasi’s understanding of beauty certainly has nothing to do with perfectly balanced forms. Rather, he seems to suggest that an element of crisis is necessary to appreciate the warmth of its resolution.

As such, the CD is continously trying to pinpoint its own position with its inbuilt compass, thereby approximating real life uncertainty. Our emotional condition, Giuseppe Ielasi seems to suggest, is after all never just made up of a set of closely connected factors. Sometimes, these may vary, diverge, even contradict each other. August takes this into consideration by always contrasting the purposeful movement of one layer of music with the out-of-sync development of another. Field recordings may crackle disturbingly, disrupting the peaceful flow of breath, a disharmonic note may confound the closedness of a texture, several lines may be running in various tempi.

The result is a work in between the organic and the processed, between repetition and variation, the consistent and the torn apart. It may not bring out an archetype or further our insight in a perticular area. But what it does do is mirror an inner world full of little miracles in all its brittle and contradictory splendour. And if it sometimes seems broken – then that is because its heart is. – Tobias Fischer

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