Petrolio: End of Vision

Luca Robba, Michele Spanghero, and Ugo Boscain bring radically different backgrounds to their PETROLIO project: Robba is a former punk rock drummer presently concentrating on electronic music and playing with David Toop's Unknown Devices Orchestra, double bass player Spanghero is currently focused on improvised and electronic music and works for three international contemporary art galleries, and multi-instrumentalist Boscain is an improviser who has become a specialist on the contrabass clarinet instrument. The group itself came together when Robba encountered the duo Mimesys featuring Spanghero on double bass and electronics and Boscain on clarinets at an experimental music festival in Italy.

As heard on the group's debut album for Gruenrekorder, End of Vision (a concept record dedicated to the unfinished novel by Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini titled Petrolio), the improvised electroacoustic music they produce under the PETROLIO name (coal oil) is suitably thick, dark, and viscous (the disc's opening setting, “vanity faint,” in particular, which virally spreads like a cancerous growth through dark ambient corridors). Though the group often shares music files over the internet to shape raw material collected during live performances and recording sessions and then uses the reprocessed results for new improvisations, End of Vision documents live sessions recorded with omni-directional microphones at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy with overdubbing and post-production used minimally. On the fifty-six minute recording, nine improvised settings (‘spontaneous compositions,' if you prefer) are spread across three parts, Lost Chapter, An Uncertain Anchor, and End of Vision, and the trio's drums-double bass-contrabass clarinet sound is fleshed out with live electronics, field recordings, samples, and piano.

During certain passages, splashes of piano collide with bowed double bass and percussive flourishes (“sinful business of a hideous mind”), while in others the group burrows deeply through dense fields of insectoid textures and nightmarish gloom (“spectral activities,” “vulval vestibule”). In addition, “sotto voce > ppp” pairs the groan of the double bass with the honk of the contrabass clarinet, and “the dumb and dazzling smile” wraps the clarinet's guttural murmur in a blanket of willowy electronics. What it all amounts to is purposeful interactions between three adventurous improvisers who use their instruments less for melodic purposes than for sculpting dynamic textural slabs of distended shape. Issued as a CD-R as part of Gruenrekorder's Audio Art Series, End of Vision is available in a limited run of fifty copies so act fast if you're interested.

October 2010