We heard from Sparkle In Grey in 2014, the oddball Italian band of rebels who made some unholy alliance of the genres of progressive rock and library music (two of Italy’s finest exports from the 1970s, some would say) on their bizarre record Thursday Evening, an album which I sensed was also informed by some form of Marxist dialectic. One of the members of this band, Matteo Uggeri, is with us today under his new name Barnacles, and he’s made a concept album with a sea-faring theme called One Single Sound (BORING MACHINES BM077).
The concept appears to be about being stuck in a cabin in an old sailing ship and being driven witless with boredom, themes which Uggeri has taken from a somewhat unexpected source, i.e. the letters of Charles Darwin when he was writing a monograph on the Cirripedia. It seems he came to hate barnacles and found his work tedious. I like the idea that a fellow we now regard as the “father of evolution”, or some such epithet, might have been plagued by existential notions and self-doubt in this way. To illustrate this interesting idea, Barnacles does not elect to create music that one would immediately associate with a sailing ship, and instead offers us his new style of working, blending electronica drones and field recordings with what he calls “tribal” beats. Each of the four tracks uses samples (he lists them inside the cover and freely owns that he “stole” them from the work of others) and as a discipline, he limits himself to a single drone, a single field recording, and a single sampled beat per track.
As we traverse the lengths of each of these four pieces, the structure is pretty much the same each time – a languid, washed-out start, leading up to a frenzy of drumming and intensified electronica moanings. Along the way we may hear subtle interventions in the form of queer voices and unknown foreign bodies, making their plaint known in the face of an indifferent world. Only one track, ‘Not Even A Sailor’, contains anything vaguely maritime in flavour (a ship’s bell, and perhaps a metal tub of some sort rattling about in the hold), and for the most part we might as well be in some vague disco dancehall of great dinginess, where industrial music is the forebear rather than Giorgio Moroder, rather than lolling about below deck on some 19th century schooner. However, I can see how an over-literal rendition of the theme would be pointless and prosaic, and it’s more likely Barnacles is trying to tell us something deeper about the human condition with his carefully assembled dunts and dronks.
When recording under his own name, Uggeri – who has been at it since about 2008 – has collaborated with a number of musicians and sound artists, mostly Italians, of whom I’ve only heard of Deison. From 4th May 2017; also released as a cassette by the small label Non Piangere Dischi.