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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Scoolptures - Please Drive By Carefully (Leo, 2013) ****

By Stef

One of the most innovative new sounds in Europe comes from the Italian electronic jazz band "Scoolptures", whose "Materiale Umano" offered a great listening experience and their sophomore "White Sickness" ranked second in our 2011 Happy New Ears Award.

Now the quartet is back with a double CD, which according to the label "molds the sound into a pulsating, urban, tense or ecstatic conglomerate, densely fluid and dynamic, a sound equivalent of Banksy"

The band are Nicola Negrini on doublebass, ubass, metallophone and live electronics, Achille Succi on alto sax, bass clarinet and shakuhachi, Philippe "Pipon" Garcia on drums, prepared guitar and live electronics, and Antonio Della Marina on sinewaves and live electronics.

They combine the beauty of acoustic sounds, the warm bass, the shimmering vibrations of the bass clarinet, the natural lightness of the shakuhachi with the sparse and ominous darkness of the electronics. A great combination of the frailty of human emotions and the menace of urban life, by itself not a new concept, but the way this quartet makes it work is by a subtle minimalism, in which all unnecessary elements are omitted, deleted, erased, and what remains are sparse threads of sounds with sudden outbursts or beautiful phrases or interesting sonic changes.

The interesting thing about the band's musical approach is that it remains relatively accessible, possibly because of the inherent lyricism of Succi's soloing. Like Banksy, what you hear is vaguely familiar and recognisable, but the context in which it appears, the contrast of the sonic backdrops force you to listen differently, resulting in nice suprises and musical enjoyment. At moments I wished they had pushed things even a little bit further into even more unconventional zones, yet the end result is highly recommendable.