AIPS (Archivo Italiano Paesaggi Sonori, or Italian Archive of Soundscapes) draws together a number of musicians and sound artists from across Italy to document and interpret the everyday sonic environments that surround them.

The participants are distributed across a number of different towns and cities, and each has a different way of responding to the place in which he or she lives. Most of them have also been interviewed by Fluid contributor Gianmarco Delre for his excellent ‘Postcards From Italy’ series of articles, and it was he who conceived of the idea of bringing the collective together in London for their first ever collaborative performance. Members swapped field recordings of their locales to edit and manipulate, mixing their work together on the night in a series of live improvisations.

The evening began with a set from Alessio Ballerini, Fabio Perletta, and Pietro Riparbelli. Quiet gusts of wind and deep echoes were augmented with faint, delicate electronics, suggesting a sonic architecture of desolation or ruin. A very fine level of control and attention to detail went into maintaining a sense of subtle tension, with various bleeps, pulses, and snatches of traffic or conversation frequently impinging on the silence, but never overwhelming it. Often it felt as though the sounds were billowing through this imaginary built environment, like the wind with which the set began, but with the introduction of a warm synth chord the movement became more directed and focused. A rhythmic pulse like a heartbeat, not so much heard as felt reverberating through ancient stone. Then the wind returned again, harsher and more aggressive this time. To my ears it felt as though this set was particularly effective at creating a sense of architectural space, with the sounds inhabiting and at times worrying and pressing at the boundaries of an imaginary monument, like the cathedrals that feature in Riparbelli’s ‘Becoming Sound’ project.

Next it was the turn of Alberto Boccardi, Attilio Novellino, and Giulio Aldinucci, who brought a very different approach to the table. Whereas in the opening set recognisable field recordings and electronics were woven closely together, here the music swayed from one extreme to the other and back again. Quiet noises opened the set, but soon heavily rhythmic tuned sounds took over, developing into an intense, pulsating trance-like workout; then an interlude that led us out among the birds and the sounds of voices and distant traffic, before the pounding rhythms started up again. It was interesting to hear a set that drew such a sharp distinction between sounds as heard in everyday non-musical contexts and their heavily edited, manipulated, and arranged counterparts, suggesting to my mind that any attempt to understand contingent sonic situations as ‘music’ requires an effort of tuning and of composition, even if it is not as extreme as the production of heavy regular beats.

The third and final set was supposed to be a joint performance between Barbara De Dominicis, Enrico Coniglio and Giovanni Lami but unfortunately De Dominicis had to cancel at the last minute, so Lami and Coniglio played instead as a duo. It should be noted that they regularly work and perform together as L?m?res, something that was all too apparent at Cafe Oto as their set really worked as a singular entity. They started their performance with what seems like unprocessed sounds drawn from the vast archive of field recordings captured by the whole collective of artists. Environmental noises (water and rain, thunder) were juxtaposed to sounds signalling human presence (steps, objects being moved, people speaking sometimes) to form a non-linear and intricate first section in which the tension was created by the space and silence in between noises. Live sound manipulations, like granulation, pulverisation or pitch shifting of those recordings, blurred the line between the familiar and the alien to create a foreboding atmosphere of menace and uncertainty, adding depth and dimension to the performance. Throughout the set Giovanni Lami made use of live electronics and analogue synthesis to create high-pitched diffused sound masses or deep bass undercurrents, as a way to either underline the tension or to displace the narrative into ambiguous spaces. As the set drew to a close, all the musicians came back on stage for a 5 minutes impromptu performance that could have sounded very chaotic and cacophonic, but strangely enough this improvised ensemble worked rather well together and manage to recontextualise the sound material heard before into new threads of narrative.

In his Postcards from Italy columns, Gianmarco Del Re has patiently exposed and mapped out the Italian experimental scene. He has shown through the refractive lens of his interview series how rich and diverse this scene really is, and in organising this evening of music at Cafe Oto, in conjunction with the AIPS collective, he’s exposed artists that rarely play in the UK but who should to be heard more often. On a side note, the overall project has been condensed in the form of an installation that recontextualises the work of all of the artists who played at Cafe OTO. Their field recordings are further sequenced, transformed, and diffused in real time and are augmented by archive films and footages of abandoned Italian villages to form a never-ending and always changing narrative. The sound exhibition is running at the Soundfjord gallery in North London until 21 July 2013.

  • Nathan Thomas and Pascal Savy for Fluid Radio

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