Say hi to Black Box Animals, the debut record from Italian duo, Luton. On this introduction, and with only a year under their belts, Roberto P. Siguera and Attilio Novellino deliver a record built on classical-led phrasing, abstract, electronic templates, and a collection of electro-acoustic sounds.
Sneaking its way through the music’s foliage is a hissing snake of light, stealthy static, which is neither overbearing nor timid. As much as it’s melodic, import is also given to its roaming, mythic cartography. The melody isn’t constricted, but rather open and flexible to change, adapting to its surroundings with chameleon-ease. The strings add another dimension to the sound, creating 4D space where sharper tones overlap and criss-cross, and other, almost microscopic sounds linger on the radar, leaving only faint, unidentified trails and contours in its murky mix. The black box records the sound of a splintering mind, the twisted debris of a hundred-and-one labyrinthine thoughts spilling out of containers. The murky setting is a light that’s been put out, no sophomore planned, no sequel.
The music ages and greys, an acidic emotion eating away at the hull of a decommissioned ship, damaging a weary soul, its metallic notes clanking and echoing through a series of hangars. The strings are there, trying to right the ship, trying to make right the wrongs of time, of what it’s done to body, mind, and soul, but it’s too late. In a fury, a crunching bass stomps over them, destroying everything in its sight, like the monster in Cloverfield.
And that’s just the first track. The second introduces a calmer piano, gently stroking and comforting the music back into a relatively sedate state until it contentedly purrs. For two minutes. Luton’s phantom sounds dig into the pit of the skull, a sonic-trepanning that roots itself in a rush-hour-network of entangled thoughts, lagging responses and nervous tremors, planting seeds in the darkness and growing, blossoming, into something else entirely. There’s a ghost or two here, but there are glitches in the system, too. A melody will repeat and then disintegrate almost at once in front of the listener’s face, as if it had a bad case of stage fright, all-too-aware of the eyes and ears fixed upon it, stumbling over its own words and its own meticulous phrasing until, with almost-unbearable levels of self-consciousness on display, it trips, forgets its place, and scurries off the pregnant stage in a theatre composed of empty seats and hungry shadows.
Melody intersects with discord, and on those rare occasions when a melody breaks through, it calms everything, turns it beautiful, like the sunset of yesterday. The ominous rumblings of ‘Night Avalanche’ bring with it the bared, ivory fangs of a woodland beast, the static growling as it stalks over loam and branch, but again, like all else before it, the sound is a temporary one and it soon abates.
The electronics try to asphyxiate the natural instrumentation, threating to choke, choke, choke, but these natural sounds have a right to be here; in fact, in the grand scheme of music, they were here first. But it’s not about who or what came first; the younger brother is the new kid on the musical block, flexing its powerful muscles and strutting down the streets, picking up girls with its bad-boy imagery and modern stylings. The electronics are fashionable and relevant with their powerhouse-revs; the elegant and mature strings are stuck behind them, unable to pass even in their slipstream. ‘Silent Fireworks’ is a coda without closure, because the music’s still misty, still an old thing, sharing the atmosphere as father and son, sweeping past wooden taverns and ancient inns. There’s a constant tug of war to the record, like sibling rivalry; animalistic music with the feel of looming war.