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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nicola Ratti - Streengs (Senufo Editions, 2012) ****

By Paolo Casertano

"This is not an album fitting with the standards of this blog", you may say. This might be true, but the word "standard" doesn’t fit with the definition of free jazz either, and then, given the assumption that I believe jazz is what one decides to consider and feel as jazz, I will now undemocratically say a couple of words about this really interesting product. But if you are still not persuaded, then you may feel more comfortable just considering this as a solo percussions release "with a little help from some little digital friends." Believe me, it will work.

Streengs by Nicola Ratti is released on Senufo Editions, the label run by his partner in the Bellows duo, Giuseppe Ielasi, an internationally well known artist with a solid reputation as mixer and producer. I’m often disappointed by the lack of experimentation in new sonic territories here in Italy. But I’m kind of wrong, something is moving towards stimulating directions. For a really short and rough overview on a growing scenario we can name the Milan based and widely appreciated label Die Schachtel with its attention to the glorious days of Italian avant-garde as much as to the new and young sound explorers from the peninsula, the fascinating guitar landscapes of Stefano Pilia and the powerful drones of Fabio Orsi.

With a minimal setup counting an analogue synthesizer fed into a delay/looping device, amplified with two audio transducers placed on the strings of a grand piano, Ratti generates a peaceful and vivid universe of silenced beats, hisses and background noises where also echoes, reverbs and silences play a major role in the construction of a sophisticated sonic language. Ratti takes advantage of the percussion on piano strings to originate a rhythmic base for the development of his live interaction with the surrounding spaces. What you have back is a kind of dialogue between field recordings and improvisation. Ratti works in the interstices between gentle falls of noises and delicate whooshes, metal pipes clanging, resonating drones and silenced percussions up to a kind of folkish wood tambourine.

I owe you an explanation of why I consider this as a jazz album. Please take for example track number four, wait for the drum to grow below you, and then start to hum as you can some sax passages from Psalm by John Coltrane, maybe bend a little bit the time. See what happens … and more, take track number eight and just ask yourself what would Bill Dixon have done with it? Do you remember him here? Now, try to do the same on these tracks, this time singing a few notes from 'Alejandro' by Lady Gaga. I strongly suggest using the climax of the song, to be found in the list of names (Fernando, Alejandro, Roberto). It is not up to me to tell the differences in results.

Believe me or not, here we have nine tracks spanning from scattered and brooding atmospheres to involving and pulsing frameworks ideal for an intimate listening. Try it!

Listen and eventually buy from the label.


Martin Schray said...

I imagine that the instrument was not a drum set with the help of electronics, instead I imagine Mats Gustafsson or Nate Wooley. Would you label it under jazz then? Of course you would. Interesting record of a musician whose name I have never heard before. Thank your for that.