SCQ Rating: 76%
“In the headspace of earphone listenings, the sounds not only circulate around the listener, they literally seem to emanate from points in the cranium itself, as if the archetypes of the unconscious were in conversation… When sound is conducted directly through the skull of the headphone listener, he is no longer regarding events on the acoustic horizon; no longer is he surrounded by a sphere of moving elements. He is the sphere. He is the universe.” ~ Murray Schafer
The above quotation, which adorns the inside sleeve of Attilio Novellino’s second LP, adequately responds to a quandary I stumbled upon earlier this month (upon the release of another admirable Valeot Records release) when I sought to define the term ambient by alternately admitting that the genre has proven pretty much indefinable. While the mention of “earphone listenings” doesn’t suggest ambient music per se, Schafer does enlist the immersive condition that few other genres offer so instinctively, and although it could read as self-congratulatory for Novellino to let the quote reference his own studio experiments, Through Glass examines a truly apt spectrum of noise and ambient trespasses.
Of a similar tone, if not design, to the recent work of Tim Hecker, Through Glass buries latent harmonies in walls of white noise and sound manipulation. In fact, the bass line driving “Ex Butterfly” calls to mind An Imaginary Country’s “Sea Of Pulses” to a tee. Otherwise Novellino embarks on his own sea change with a liquid progression that grows complicated over layers, or even full tracks, at a time. (Even “Ex Butterfly” transitions gradually through a tonal plateau called “Her Red Shoes”, and into the crystalline, toy-box lullaby “After You’ve Had A Life”.) Although the record’s elements occasionally come off as saturated, it’s more often an empowering infiltration of sound than a confrontation, with Novellino’s interference sometimes working as a sort of percolating percussion (“Through Glass”) or still-life blur likened to a shoe-gaze effect (“Yosemite’s Night Sky”).
Novellino’s particular style begs for contradiction – abrasive but never grating, intense yet somehow soothing – by making noise a therapeutic invitation for the introverted. And while Mr. Schafer might consider my spellbound listening a contributor to his theory on headphone-caused transcendence, I reckon that Through Glass handily fashions its stormy universe without my subconscious input. Here’s to a provocative new talent from a label that continues to push boundaries.