Elisa Luu: Un Giorno Sospeso
Hidden Shoal

On Un Giorno Sospeso, the follow-up to her 2009 debut album Chromatic Sigh, Rome, Italy-based composer Elisa Luu (Elisabetta Luciani) shows herself to be an exceptional tonal colourist. The style of the new material is sometimes ambient, albeit of an inordinately rich vintage, but just as often electronica, and at times beat-based electronica.

Opening the recording on a reflective note, “Flussigirl” offers a gloriously radiant study in blossoming synthetic textures. Luu changes things up immediately, however, when she pushes the second piece, “Se Fosse Per Me...” into a buoyant trip-hop zone when beats join the track's otherwise shimmering design. Luu's sensitivity to tonal colour is consistently evident in the particular sounds she uses in her tracks, and that talent makes for some of the most sumptuous sounding electronica on offer. A piece such as “Tok” exerts an immersive pull that draws the listener into its exquisitely rendered sound world, but also challenges expectations when it suddenly collapses halfway through before rebuilding itself in the second half.

Unusual elements often surface in the material, such as the fluttering horns that emerge unexpectedly during “Se Fosse Per Me...” and phase-treated micro-textures in “Love 37.” Appearing as it does after four tracks of synthetic-heavy pieces, the dronescape “Qui” catches one's ear with a shuddering flow of (what appear to be) e-bow guitar textures punctuated by bell strikes. That feedback-laden, guitar-based attack carries over into “Il Tempo Di Capire,” the album's heaviest and trippiest piece, which Luu grounds with a bone-rattling hip-hop groove. As a study in contrast, compare that piece to the entrancing swirl of synthetic tones Luu conjures for the closing serenade “Noi.”

It's an album of constant surprises and left turns—pleasingly so—where one never knows what direction the next piece will take. That's a bit of a risky strategy as it can result in an album lacking in unity and cohesiveness, but Luciani manages to walk that tightrope skillfully enough that no such impression results. Instead, one comes away from Un Giorno Sospeso taken by both her imaginative command and her compositional and arranging prowess.

July-August 2012