“Pavement Narrows” is the first full-length solo album from Italian musician Ennio Mazzon since 2013’s “Xuan”. Eschewing the identifiable field recordings heard in previous work, the new release focuses Mazzon’s audio programming talents on dense, heavy walls of noise, with hard-edged electronic timbres rising like sheets of sonic glass from the tide. Even the quieter moments sound more like low-volume versions of louder passages, rather than coming from a place of quietness — but such is the overwhelming intensity and majesty of the loud sections that it all seems to make a satisfying sort of sense.
The press release describes Mazzon’s intentions for “Pavement Narrows” as being oriented more towards a distorted version of ‘pop’ than previous works. What ‘pop’ seems to mean in practice is more regular metres, less indeterminacy, discrete riffs, and sometimes recognisable instrument sounds such as cymbals and drum kit. The album is split into 11 tracks, and although they run continuously from one to the next, and several melodies return at a later point in the album, this is definitely an assemblage of discrete pieces rather than a single coherent work in the manner of “Xuan”. Driving tension and epic transcendence is the order of the day, while some of the titles hint at the wildernesses of Canada, a country where Mazzon recently spent some time (‘Salmon Run’, ‘Syrup Trap’).
I miss the uncertainty and bewilderment of “Xuan”, but “Pavement Narrows” is a more confident and gripping show of force. Despite the pop orientation, the album resists the easy option of breaking out the four-to-the-floor kick drum — beats are largely implied rather than shoved in the listener’s face (take opener ‘Hunting souvenirs’ as an example). If you like your noise intense and accessible, with riffs that carry on swimming round your head after they’re gone, “Pavement Narrows” delivers the goods.