Antico Adagio: spellbinding minimalist music of beauty and intense focus

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Lino Capra Vaccina, Antico Adagio, Die Schachtel, DS27CD (2014)

First issued in 1978, this beautiful if unassuming recording of minimalist compositions based around the sounds of various percussion instruments played by Lino “Capra” Vaccina, accompanied by four other musicians, was reissued on CD by Die Schachtel in 2014 and reprinted in 2015 – the sign of a very popular reissue. The CD reissue also includes bonus tracks from another recording, “Frammenti da Antico Adagio” which consists of unreleased music from the original 1978 recording sessions for “Antico Adagio”.

I can understand why the album sold out promptly on its reissue: despite its quiet, inward-looking nature, the music can be really spellbinding in its intense focus, and it draws listeners deep, far deep into its twinkling depths. By necessity the music needs to be played loudly enough the first few times, especially third track “Canti delle sfere” which is a very sonorous beast dominated by the rich tones, vibrations and echoes of a gong, all beckoning listeners into the dark austere universe of stately moving planets from which it hails. After you’ve spun the recording often enough to know as many tracks as you want, you’ll be wishing that most pieces here should have run at least twice as long as they actually do, just to stay in the strange worlds opened up in the album.

There is a lot of repetition as might be expected in minimalist music and much of the music seems to be an exploration of percussion-generated tones and rhythms that might act as portals into unknown alien worlds. Sometimes the repetition works well and at other times it does sound clunky and a bit boring if it continues on too long (as on the title track). Atmosphere exists as a by-product of the music and if you’re so inclined, you can allow it to lull you into a peaceful meditative state in which lightness and a feeling of oneness with the universe are possible. While the attitude might be studious, the music never feels forced.

Most tracks are very enjoyable though I did find “Motus” a bit less than satisfying, probably because its layered quality and earnest beat seemed so out of place with the rest of the album. The best tracks retain an air of spontaneity and lightness that allow them to trip lightly by. There is a majestic quality as well to the recording and it really does come across as a soundtrack that would win its hypothetical film a clutch of awards.

This definitely is an album to be heard at least once. After that, you may well find yourself returning to it again and again and again … you’ll probably even be looking forward to the next reprint …

 

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