2013 Top 10s & 20s
The Knells' The Knells
Spotlight 11

John Luther Adams
Astro Sonic
Mark Cetilia
Ulises Conti
Stephen Cornford
Exercise One
Stavros Gasparatos
Rael Jones
The Knells
Lord Echo
Selaxon Lutberg
Martin & Berg
Josh Mason
Ron Morelli
One Far West
Orange Yellow Red
Piano Interrupted
Oleg Poliakov
Saffronkeira + Massa
Scarlet Youth
Burkhard Stangl
Peter Van Hoesen
Vatican Shadow

Compilations / Mixes
EPM Selected Vol. 2
My Love For You Is Analog.
OFF To ADE 2013
Tempo Dreams Vol. 2
Transit 2

EPs / Cassettes / Singles
Fighting Lion
Kyle Fosburgh
Fre4knc / Nuage
Rezo Glonti
Ishan Sound
Pennygiles & Phil Tangent
Dominic Petrie
Sontag Shogun
Thrash Pilot

Selaxon Lutberg: Simboli Accidentali
Denovali Records

Simboli Accidentali (Accidental Symbols), the third full-length by Italian artist Andrea Penso, raises the familiar question associated with ambient music: is it still ambient music if it imposes itself upon the listener as opposed to blending into the environment like so much subliminal sonic tinting? Certainly Penso downplays the individuating character of the album's eight pieces by identifying them as “Untitled 1,” “Untitled 2,” and so on, and if anything the material on the thirty-seven-minute collection seems to grow gradually quieter and its world more hermetic as it advances from one piece to the next. And yet played at a sufficiently loud volume—loud enough so that its tracks can be heard clearly and differentiated between—the album imposes itself memorably and individuating details emerge.

A biographical dimension underpins the material, all of it recorded at Penso's home between 2010 and 2012. Drawing inspiration from an interview comment by filmmaker Andrej Tarkovsky wherein he contended that “childhood feeds all the creativity of the adult period,” Penso turned his attention to the so-called accidental symbols of his own childhood so as to transmute their essence into musical form. To that end, he generated the eight pieces using processed guitars, an old organ, and loops sourced from tapes and vinyl discs.

The material is largely introspective in nature, the hard-edged textures of the electric guitar and its tremolo strums softened by the ambient haze with which it's surrounded. An occasional dark cloud looms (such as in “Untitled 5”), but for the most part the listener is presented with the impression of a bucolic and relatively carefree childhood. “Untitled 6” sees supplicating choral voices softly intoning amidst organ warble and surface noise in a way that conjures the image of a child attending a church service for the first time and awed by the grandeur of the architectural structure and overall spectacle. Certainly the music, enveloped as it often is in haze, exudes a nostalgic quality, and the material seems to emerge like some fond memory that gradually assumes stronger definition with each passing moment. That's never more the case than during “Untitled 3,” a harmonious and delicate reverie whose luminous quality suggests a strong affinity between Penso and Eno.

December 2013