Lawrence English: For Varying Degrees of Winter

M.B + E.D.A.: Regolelettroniche

Lawrence English's musical approach lends itself naturally to For Varying Degrees of Winter. The meditative material's pure and glassy character is, yes, thoroughly wintry, and its sleek surfaces are as slippery as ice. Paradoxically, the release's six settings aren't alienating but suffused with warmth and, though they're bereft of conventional melody, aren't lacking in musicality. Speckles of snow dot the material (“Fleck”) and ripples of freezing winds blow across the tundra too (“Soft Touch”). The ROOM40 label head is joined on this outing by guests Mike Cooper, Janek Schaefer, and Aki Onda, each of whom brings something different to his respective piece: Cooper's cryptic guitar shadings intensifies the desolation of the ponderous drone “Desert Road,” Schaefer's electronics gracefully illuminate the glacial drone “Swan,” and Onda's tape contributions heighten the crepuscular evocation “Unsettled Sleep” which suggests a dreamer's troubled visions of the seaside and harbour.

Of vastly different sonic character is Regolelettroniche by M.B + E.D.A. (Maurizio Bianchi and Emanuela De Angelis). A generation separates the two but they're of simpatico minds on their four-track collection of deep drones. Their backgrounds are radically different too: active in electronic music circles since 1979, Bianchi abruptly quit in 1984 for “religious reasons” before returning to the scene thirteen years later. Younger by twenty years, De Angelis's debuted in 1994 as the guitarist and singer in noise band Joyce Whore Not, appeared on the first record by Tu M', and went solo ten years later. On this recording, Bianchi is credited with loops and waves, and De Angelis with drones and re-echoings though, predictably, the sonic results—guided by so-called “rulelectronics” the pair agreed upon—meld their contributions into undifferentiated wholes. The release begins with a rather restrained overture “Earthly Principle” before plunging into the deep end in “Cosmic Norms.” Over the course of twenty-five, engulfing minutes, grimy tones waver and drift in tranquil manner with the waves and loops undergoing nearly imperceptible metamorphoses. The shimmering “Universal Order” heats up immediately but may exhaust some listeners' patience by repeating its minimal chords to excess. The meditative drone style of Regolelettroniche isn't unfamiliar, but what is ear-catching is the peaceful ambiance the material's industrial, machine-like sounds cultivate.

March 2008