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Luca Formentini — Intra
(Bandcamp Subcontinental SCR049, 2021, CD / LP / MC)

Robert Rich & Luca Formentini — For Sundays When It Rains
(Bandcamp no#, 2022, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-11-20

Intra Cover artFor Sundays When It Rains Cover art

Robert Rich is widely known as one of the founders of ambient, experimental, trance and tribal music, using modular electronics, woodwind instruments, and much more, often working in collaboration with other like-minded travelers; as of 2022 he has produced nearly 80 recordings going back to the early 80s. Luca Formentini is an Italian composer and experimental guitarist, active since the early 2000s, with less than ten releases to his credit; his music pushes the limits, merging atmospherics, electronics, and more in the general spirit of consummate creativity, Here we present two recordings: one a collaboration with Rich, the other with Formentini experimenting on his own with different ideas including voice and found sounds. The two albums couldn’t be more different.

With Intra, Formentini blends ambient and industrial sounds, electric and acoustic guitars, field recordings and random percussion in a blend of shimmering sounds that stretch up from the periphery to an imaginary point of connection overhead. Intra- is a Latin prefix that means ‘within,’ the state of being inside something, here as seven compositions of inward exploration, yet stretching outward to every horizon that can be found. Two of the cuts, “Outs” and “Traced,” feature Formantini’s whispered poetry over groaning vibrations and experimental walls of industrial sound, or in the case of “Outs” blended with the dreamy sounds of stringed instruments (lyre or string harp). Both pieces striking an uneasy coexistence but certainly an interesting sonic expression. The lyrics (in English) are provided in the booklet, though their whispered states mixed with the random sounds around them are more than engaging enough. The album opener, “What If,” is equally explorative, though without the voices, built up from a combination of ambient guitar washes, odd percussives, and low voltage pulses, each taking their turn. A mix of strange electronic sounds, strange effects, and dreamy acoustic guitar team up on “Have Bridges, Find Rivers,” as the piece wanders improvisationally through the mystical night. “Molecules” is another curiosity, floating ambient sounds provide the swirling backdrop for a found recording which appears to be a therapist interviewing his subject as she goes through a psychedelic drug experience. The CD and download-only bonus track “Tell About What Can’t Be Seen” mixes a procession of dreamy processed sounds and crisp floating tonal colorations for a near nine-minute journey.

The Rich / Formentini collaboration For Sundays When It Rains generally takes a less experimental approach, recorded between February and June 2022 at both composers’ respective studios in Carmel, California, and Lake Garda, Italy. Rich contributes Sequential Prophet X and 12, Haken Continuum, Synthtech e520, flutes, piano, and lap steel guitar, while Formentini contributes electric, acoustic, and fretless guitars. They each created their parts in their respective studios as the twelve pieces were built up in layers, with Rich performing the final editing, mixing, and mastering. Each of the pieces breathes and grows as it develops and finds its voice, like pieces of a long dream assembled from parts. There are no voices or field recordings here; their approach is strictly instrumental, and what a perfect album title — it describes to a tee the dreamy and mellow flavor of the overall character. This is one of those albums where you could play it in an infinite repeat loop and never grow tired of the journey. Each of the pieces seems almost like we are looking at infinite tiny details of nature through a macro lens, each piece detailing a different part, respecting all the others. The violin-like sounds on “Second Day” crossing paths with the acoustic guitar, all over a beautiful bed of synths, is a positively mystical experience. The title track offers a more dreamy and introspective current, with acoustic guitar and ambient synth washes alternating, along with heavily reverbed flutes, to give a maximum expansion as our dream travels inward. Similarly, “Book without Pages” offers the imagination a perfect place of respite, while the closer “Memento” opens with a subtle dreaminess on heavily reverbed piano while we wait for the guitar to join in, the captured feeling opening a beautiful field of introspection. Both of these albums have their unique charms, For Sundays When It Rains being the more emotional experience, while Intra clearly has a more experimental and avant-garde style overall.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Robert Rich, Luca Formentini

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