Enrico Coniglio: Songs from Ruined Days

In keeping with its title, Enrico Coniglio's Songs from Ruined Days exudes a primarily desolate and even dystopic character during its uninterrupted, forty-five-minute presentation. A download-only release that's part of Touch's Spire project, the Italian artist's latest work is a shape-shifting ambient-drone collage based on 2009 field recordings made in Porto Marghera, an industrial coastal area on Venice, Italy's mainland currently afflicted by severe economic and environmental crises, and in Vienna, Austria. If there's one thing in particular that distinguishes Coniglio's work from that of others in the field recordings-based soundscape genre, it's the degree to which it's focused on distilling environmental settings into sonic form and on capturing the evolutionódegradation includedóof the urban landscape.

Against a static-encrusted bedrock of reverberant industrial churn, glassy tones and vaporous surges appear, with the mass gradually giving way to a liturgical passage that suggests a church setting where organ playing and rustling movements of people intermingle. Blurry, windswept episodes follow, as do ones involving speaking voices, choral interjections, and industrial ruptures of one kind or another until the piece descends into an electrical swamp in its closing minutes. The impression formed is of a society undergoing collapse, its technological advances undermined by unanticipated cracks in the seams and its rusting machines poisoning the environment as much as benefiting humanity. Shrouded in gloom, the piece unfolds with patient deliberation, moving from one ruined setting to the next, with fragments of choral illumination (a children's choir the most affecting) offering tentative hope for salvation.

July 2010