Victor Bermon: Arriving at Night

Retina.IT: Semeion

Hailing from Perth, Australia, Victor Bermon presents thirteen inviting organic tracks on his debut album Arriving at Night (he previously appeared alongside Retina.IT and Samadha on the Immediate Action #009 12-inch). Melodic constructions like “Farewell Lunch for Laura” and “We Face Each Other” waft in on a warm breeze of hazy acoustic guitars and lightly skipping beats. At certain moments, his music suggests a potential hip-hop-influenced direction (“On This Night”) but Bermon typically resists the urge and opts for a less frenetic amalgam that's more Savath + Savalas-styled ambient placidity (“Unprepared,” for example, is a particularly lulling moodscape) than a Prefuse 73-flavoured urban soundtrack. Though beats are present, they're more like afterthoughts in this sometimes subtly glitch-laden context, with the emphasis on acoustic guitar flutter, sunlit electronics, piano, and vibes. All of which makes Bermon's music stylistically kin to similarly tranquil collections like Keith Kenniff's Helios and Goldmund outings Eingya and Corduroy Road. Arriving at Night proves that becalmed needn't mean embalmed.

The 70-minute Semeion suggests that Retina.IT (Italy-based Lino Monaco and Nicola Buono), by comparison, is all about beats. Interestingly, after Monaco and Buono met as DJs at a Neapolitan club in the ‘90s, they began collaborating and eventually formed Qmen (with third member Rino Cerrone), an outfit whose material was defined by heavy rhythms and minimal electronica elements—much like the Retina.IT sound of today. The duo's current approach consists of performing and improvising all of their material to DAT, which they later transfer to the computer and re-edit into a stripped-down, funky electronic-techno hybrid. All of which sounds fantastic, and would be, if the duo crafted melodic structures as compelling as their impeccably tight beat constructions. Too much of the over-long Semeion (a collection of unreleased and previously-issued cuts from various 2001-06 EPs) is bereft of melody, making the tracks sound like sleek background music; too often, the listener waits in vain for something to happen and a dramatic compositional structure or development to declare itself but it doesn't happen. In those cases, though, where there is development, the group's polished and propulsive material impresses, like in “T-UFO” where a synth melody punctuates an intensifying two-toned attack, in “Apeiron” where a jazzy keyboard melody floats overtop the tune's swinging funk, and in “Uranio” where voice edits alternate with keyboard intricacy, commanding attention. Admittedly, too, even when a track is primarily about rhythm, it's sometimes so infectious (“Violynth”) and the activity level so engrossing (“Per Assurdo”) that the relative absence of melodic elements is something one can overlook.

July 2007