AIPS (the Archivio Italiano dei Paesaggi Sonori, or Italian Archive of Soundscapes) is a collective of sound artists and musicians from across Italy, many of whom have been interviewed for this site as part of Gianmarco Delre’s fascinating and exhaustive chronicling of the Italian experimental music scene. The collective’s debut concert in London a short while ago coincided with the first release from their new label Oak Editions, which fittingly takes its title from Delre’s ongoing “Postcards From Italy” series of articles. Each of the nine contributing artists made a field recording in and around his or her local area, which was then given to another artist in the project to make a piece from; the title of each piece is simply a set of GPS coordinates, presumably detailing the location at which the field recording was made.
The approaches taken to reworking the provided field recording vary widely. The album opens with a characteristically minimal, abstract piece from Fabio Perletta: ghostly rumbles, hisses and beeps give few clues as to what the original recording by Barbara de Dominicis sounds like. Other artists transform their material to an equally radical degree, but in order to produce something much more tonal or rhythmically regular, such as in the case of Alessio Ballerini’s editing of Giulio Aldinucci’s field recording into a simple elegiac melody accompanied by a pounding beat. In other cases, the character of the original material is more audible: Enrico Coniglio’s Venice recording clatters and scrunches on top of Attilio Novellino’s howling broadband noise. The sombre whistles of De Dominicis’ piece quaver between the musical and the natural, before giving way to a piercing, distorted tune that likewise sits ambiguously between voice and electric guitar. Perhaps the most playful treatment of the source material comes from Coniglio, who allows Ballerini’s insect hum to play unedited before echoing it with a grating, distorted version, turning nature into machine in what could be interpreted as a wry comment on the process of field recording and the artistic representation of nature.
Much like its namesake, the “Postcards From Italy” release showcases a varied and wide-ranging set of artistic practices, yet it also demonstrates the ability of Italian musicians and sound artists to work together to build something that might be called a scene. Unlike more traditional models of ‘scene’, however, AIPS drops the herd mentality to act as a distributed network of individuals, each of whom operates on the peripheries of the mainstream culture surrounding them, while remaining closely attuned to the locality in which he or she lives. Their first collaborative release is evidence not only of the concrete sounds of Italy — from the mundane to the bizarre, the anonymous to the specific — but also of the quality, diversity and imagination inherent in current Italian sound art.