Stanze: nine short yet intimate and immersive free-form pop music soundscapes

Aperture, Stanze, Germany, Stray Signals, STRAY008 vinyl LP (2023)

Admit it, sometimes when you’ve had a bad day, whether at work or at school or after a bad argument with family or friends that leads to both or all parties vowing never to speak to one other again, all you want in the way of music is something light and not too demanding, yet still challenging and original enough so that your brain doesn’t sink into a fug. Enter here the appropriately named Aperture – a brother-sister duo, Emanuele and Elisabetta Porcinai, one sibling a music producer and the other a poet / artist – with second album “Stanze”, a collection of nine minimalist soundscapes created by guitars, bass, keyboards, electronics and percussion in free-form fashion and featuring Elisabetta Porcinai’s lyrics which she either speaks in hushed, intimate tones or sings. Aperture slip into that space where formulaic commercial pop music ends but where other non-commercial or alternative musics can’t quite reach, and superficial hybrids of commercial and non-commercial musics fail to bridge as well. On “Stanze”, the songs are clearly pop songs, and yet the lyrics and the music follow clearly unusual paths of rhythm, beat and melody – or maybe few or none of these – even though they harmonise well together to form self-contained works of distinct character and emotion.

The Porcinais have able assistance from Andre Belfi on prepared percussion (on “Everyone”), Marina Brandorff on flute (on “Read Me a Poem”) and Alfred Brooks on drums, bass and electronics. An air of tension and uncertainty surrounds the songs while they are being performed – on some tracks there seems to be some sort of chatter, like birds chirping outside the window, and this background environment along with various sound effects and the sometimes slightly frizzly production affects the music and possibly Elisabetta P’s performance, even though the style of delivery is nearly barebones low-key and minimal. Elisabetta P herself sounds as if she has just woken up from a bad night’s sleep and a dreadful hangover from whatever indulgences and excesses she might have gone through. On a few tracks “Sogno”, “Le parole ed i gesti” and “Sveva”, Emanuele P takes over vocal duties in whispery tones.

Though songs are short, they pack considerable emotional punch in their particular use of instruments, in Elisabetta’s vocal style and sometimes in the sonic background that accompanies the music and lyrics. The intimate nature of the songs and of Elisabetta’s voice in particular draws you right into their universe and by the time the album is over, even though it’s not very long, whatever might have troubled you before has completely gone.

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