Andrea Belfi: Wege
Italian electroacoustic musician and composer and percussionist Andrea Belfi used a somewhat complex production methodology to generate the four pieces on his fourth album Wege (Path), specifically a “cyclic electroacoustic system” (influenced in part by Steve Reich's Pendulum Music) that's predicated upon spiraling interactions between synthesizer, feedback, and drums. In Belfi's own words, “This device creates feedbacks on two drums on my drum kit, and I can modify it by stopping and stretching the drum skins with hands and various kinds of sticks, mallets and brushes, and/or by filtering the feedback with a modular synthesizer.”
No matter how systems-based the project might appear on paper, as a pure listening experience a far different impression emerges. Wege, which was developed during two artist-in-residences in Austria (Hotel Pupik) and in Brussels (Q-O2 Werkplatz), never comes across as a sterile academic exercise, as Belfi gives its four tracks (simply titled “A,” “B,” “C,” and “D”) distinctive characters by featuring different instrument sounds and unpredictable compositional structures in each (at the same time, connections between the four pieces are created through the recurring presence of speaking voices and recited Italian texts). On time grounds alone, contrast is evident, as Belfi follows two fourteen-minute settings with shorter pieces, two and eight minutes respectively.
The first piece builds upon his drums, percussion, and electronics by adding violin playing and spoken word passages, a move that adds greatly to the fourteen-minute setting. After solidly establishing the percussive base, Belfi brings the violin into the fold as a contrasting texture, before underlaying the voices with an explorative solo percussion episode and eventually melding the various elements into a dream-like flow. In a piece that ultimately assumes somewhat of a collage-like design, the scenery and dynamics change constantly and consequently the listener's attention is held throughout.
“B” expands on the established sound world by adding vibraphone, double bass, cello, and guitars to the opener's violin, voice, electronics, and percussion, a move that invests the material with a brooding, noir-like stealth during its opening half. Thereafter things grow slightly more urgent on percussive grounds, even if the accompanying slide guitar and string instruments voice their mournful utterances at half speed, resulting in a generally wistful mood that departs dramatically from the recording's opener. “C” is a veritable miniature by comparison and more boldly electronically textured, though the inclusion of a speaking voice maintains its connection to the project as a whole, while the closing “D” pushes the material in a slightly new direction by adding Machinefabriek's guitar to Belfi's percussion, electronics, and harmonica. Not surprisingly given Belfi's background, the project retains a pronounced percussion emphasis, but Wege is obviously more than a one-dimensional percussion project. Throughout the recording, Belfi uses that foundation as a springboard for a series of instrumentally rich explorations.