Fabio Orsi: Stand Before me, Oh my Soul
If, like me, you were disappointed with Fabio’s 2010 triple disc release Random Shades of Day than I can reassure you he’s back in form with Stand Before me, Oh my Soul.
The Italian maestro uses his trusty guitar and FX rack as the basis for a range of drones and echoing melodies, garnished with some fantastic drum samples and synthesised bass. The entire record has a very live feel about it, particularly the drums which although sampled are damaged with reverb and delay to create a haunting atmosphere. Flange FX are put to intense use on nearly every track which paints a dreamy ambience. Icy melodies ring out from the haze, fingers scrape up and down electrified guitar strings and echo out into the nothingness; everything’s bliss.
Papa, Show me your Blues LPs fades into being with a cloud of hiss and static that mutates into a fuzzy jazz break wrapped around discordant horns and droning guitars. Eventually the harmony is shattered by a collision of cymbals and buzz that fades into Full Metal Flat where an icy drone builds into a bass heavy, rhythmic jam.
When Fabio (I love writing that name) is on, he’s fucking on. Stand Before me, Oh my Soul succeeds over the Random Shades of Day mess largely because of the drums, which provide a solid hook for his six-stringed sonics. If you dig this, I’d highly recommend you check out his 2009 collaboration Thoughts Melt in the Air as well.
Fabio Orsi / Valerio Cosi: Thoughts Melt in the Air
I like buying albums based purely on a whim, recommendation or review. I like the thrill of surprise; sometimes they suck, and other times they blow my mind, just like Thoughts Melt in the Air did.
This collaboration between two Italian drone artists is the exact opposite of Sunn O))) and those early Earth records. There are no bowel-loosening, distorted guitars and smoke machines. Instead, everything shimmers around the treble clef, humming lazily in your ears. It’s a subtle concoction of Sitar-like instruments, keys, clean guitars and effects pedals. It’s fucking beautiful, and it reminds me of Yellow Swans’ At All Ends.
The album opens with a singular hum, sounding like a light aircraft caressing the horizon. An augmented drone of string instruments fades in, like an orchestra tuning up and begins to pulse slightly in volume. There’s a faint noise in the background, an occasional hiss that slips into a rhythm and eventually materialises as an unsteady beat that never gets loud enough to become the focus of the composition. Strange yelps and moans lurch out of the clouds, and then disappear. Reverb rings out from everywhere. Piece by piece the elements fade out again until there’s nothing left but silence.
The following track, Thoughts begins similarly but this time with a haunting whir that sounds like an electronic reproduction of someone playing glass rims in a cave. It’s like light calling out from another dimension. This time the beat is more conventional, all tom toms and high-hats, but still buried way down in the mix as an anchor keeping the whole piece together.
Orsi and Cosi play with these delicate drones over four extended tracks, never once building to any forceful conclusion. Thoughts Melt in the Air is about restraint, and micro shifts in sound that create significant changes in atmosphere. Apparently both these guys have prolific back catalogues as solo artists – Orsi experiments with Guitar, and Cosi fucks with the saxophone – which is news to these ears but you can bet I’ll be hunting down more of their stuff.
Every time I listen to this album I get lost. And when the record finishes, and my brain registers that the dreamy soundscapes are over, I come back again not really knowing where I’ve gone.