No Fire in Cairo

From Milan, Italian composer Alberto Boccardi has realised Petra (ROOM 40 RM4165) in five parts, themed on ideas about stone and geology and released as a cassette. He lived in Cairo for five years, he’ll have us know, and found himself overwhelmed by the non-stop excitement of that bustling metropolis, bringing back impressions of a “frenetic mood” along with “flashing lights” and a “throbbing sense of life”. Later he came back to Milan and reflected on his exhausting sonic experiences, and recorded the basic materials in a studio which have now been worked into this suite, and assigned such rich titles as ‘La Testa Cade a Piombo’. He also brought in the dancer Cinzia de Lorenzi to add her vocal contributions to a few tracks. So what we have here is a throbbing sense of life and a frenetic mood reflecting his adventures in Egypt? Well, not exactly – Boccardi decided instead he would concentrate mostly on “silence” and use a very reductive, subtractive method to work his tapes and recordings, meaning that what’s landed on the disc is a very bleached-out, empty sound. Very unengaging and uneventful. I’ll admit that when de Lorenzi whispers her enigmatic utterances on ‘Silice’, you might experience a second or two of intriguing frisson, only to have the mood broken by Boccardi’s boring ambient stabs. We heard him last on the Litio LP, which started life as a recording of a trio performing music with synth, bass, and drums, until someone sat behind the mixing desk and carefully bled all the energy out of it. (10/06/2022)

Latest from pinkcourtesyphone is called All Intensive Purposes (ROOM 40 RM4188), a title that cleverly turns a commonplace cliché in on itself and reminds us about the “intensity” which Richard Chartier hopes to achieve with his brand of ambient music. We’ve been enjoying his approach for some years now and am happy to report he’s not really varying the formula much on this record. His records always leave me with the impression of a gigantic luxurious hotel, falling into disrepair, and we’re slowly exploring its faded grandeur. But he sometimes manages to inject a hint of film-noir tension with his inaudible vocal snatches and inserted sound effects. The press notes have gone overboard this time, clutching at “makeup” metaphors to express the full richness of the music, using words such as rouge, lipstick, and perfume. This might be the result of listening to the album while watching an old Hollywood movie from the women’s melodrama genre of the 1940s, such as Mildred Pierce or Letter From An Unknown Woman. For my money, Chartier hasn’t really improved on his 2016 album for Editions Mego, but he is maintaining the quality control in his output and ensuring that each release has a pink semi-abstract cover artwork, thus creating a lineage of sorts. Maybe he could do for the colour pink what Yves Klein did for cobalt blue. I also detect a slight drift away from his usual lush, rich sounds towards something somewhat more minimal, ambiguous, cold, and disturbing. Fave cut so far is ‘Serving Autosuggestion’. You might prefer ‘Comfortable Predictability’, which could be read as an implied critique of modern living. (10/06/2022)

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