Enrico Coniglio: SALICORNIE - Topofonie Vol. 2

SALICORNIE - Topofonie vol. 2, Enrico Coniglio's follow-up to his 2007 Psychonavigation collection AREAVIRUS - Topofonie vol. 1, is fashioned as a tone poem to Venice, and as such is designed to convey the full spectrum of experiences associated with the city—its decadent and romantic sides, its chaos and rowdiness. Coniglio draws upon field recordings of water, church bells, children's voices, and the cacophany of overlapping conversations to generate rich mental postcards of a busy locale. Musical sounds drift out a cafe's doors to join a mix that's already teeming, and the creak of a gondola wending its way through the city's water routes also surfaces. Adjoining such elements are thick ambient webs Coniglio builds from a mini-orchestra of guitar, synthesizer, bells, toy glockenspiel, clavietta, harmonica, psalterium, and a host of other materials. Some pieces are shape-shifting settings of collage-styled design; others are more song-shaped. “Alpen Tower pt. 2,” for example, adheres to a conventional structure in nicely underlaying piano tinkles and revereberant electric guitar figures with an understated beat pulse. For every excursion into darkness (e.g., the murky, watery depths plunged during “Fondamente Nove incl. 130 cm s.l.m.”), something sweeter emerges to offset it.

Not surprisingly, the material receives a considerable boost from the presence of Arve Henriksen, whose trumpet playing adds personality to whatever project he's contributing to. The title piece (and its later reprise) stand out for the way in which Henriksen's signature breathy tone floats overtop the lulling backdrop Coniglio provides to him. Collectively, the sound verges on symphonic as see-sawing piano chords, violins, cellos, and a martial drum pattern (sampled from Ravel's Bolero) conduct their slow and steady ascent. When Henriksen and cellist Patrik Monticelli voice a yearning theme halfway through the piece, it feels like a quintessential ECM moment, even if Coniglio's album appears on Psychonavigation. Monticelli also has a lovely solo spot on “SALICORNIE (interlude),” where the piece's haunting main theme is prominent. The playing of Henriksen and Monticelli, abetted by the piano of Gigi Masin (who gets the closing track “Usaghi Blues” all to himself), also elevates “The Girl from Murania,” whose lush and pretty five minutes might be the album's most uplifting. The impact such guests make on the album can't be overstated, as without them its seventy-minute running time would start to feel overlong; it would be easy to imagine listener fatigue setting in by the time the ninth and tenth settings, “Pastor et Nauta” and “Bateon dei Morti” appear, for instance. But by adding such distinguished voices to his material, Coniglio ensures that the album holds one's attention despite its length.

October 2010