Slowcraft’s Lifelines series continues apace with its final release of the year, in which Italian composer and sound artist Francis M. Gri studies the ‘bonds that join us and the ways they can fray and break’. Paper-thin lines separate kindness from cruelty, generosity from greed, and altruism from selfishness. These are the ropes in question, and everyone is capable of either exacerbating their tension by tightening and pulling on them further, or slackening them and providing some benevolence in the face of an uncaring world.
The Ropes is an examination of personal choice and the inevitable consequences which follow. This is immediately evident from the opening track, ‘Consequences of Words’, not just in what it has to say through its title, but through its music. Words have the power to heal or hurt, to remedy or remonstrate. Stillness and calm can be found in every note, but there are undercurrents of tension within them, tightening during some sections so as to feel more constrained, even asphyxiated, by a wave of emotions, their ropes tugging at the conscience with regrets or missed opportunities. Gri’s electroacoustic music sways between tension and relief, making the music somewhat bittersweet.
Sometimes, the looping ambient textures resemble waves more than anything else, washing up and then rebounding back home. Intermittent birdsong filters into a reversing loop on ‘Bind or Break’, and there’s a strong connection to the natural world throughout the album. Quicker guitar melodies appear to represent an entanglement of their own, with notes intertwining in sweet harmony, even if their real-life circumstances are anything but harmonious.
Like episodes in life, ropes (or Christmas lights) can become knotted and tangled up from time to time. Sometimes, either slowly or suddenly, a path is enveloped in a deep mist, and one is unable to find a way to untie a difficult situation. Either by circumstance, fate, or a personal mistake, divisions can arise, and once these knots are tightly wound, they’re hard to undo…possibly resulting in permanent loss and erasure. The Ropes tugs gently (but it’s enough to feel the strain) on these elements and themes, never losing its ambient centre in the excavation of its emotions.