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CD Feature/ Alio Die & Martina Galvagni: "Eleusian Lullaby"

img  Tobias
Sometimes an album comes popping out of nowhere and leaves one wondering why on earth this hasn’t been done before. “Eleusian Lullaby” is such an album and with its release date falling somewhere between the old and the new year, fans of drone music will now have the chance to decide whether to make this part of their top ten for 2007 or 2008.

The concept to this collaboration is seemingly simple: Alio Die’s Stefano Musso uses a colourful array of medievally-tinged instruments to lay down finely woven soundscapes of sensuous and ethereal quality, while his Italian compatriote Martina Galvagni uses them for otherwordly vocal excursions. In their essence, these three pieces are songs – recorded at the rim of the black hole, where time is starting to stretch into infinity, but the dream is still breathing.

The results are anything but banal, however. “The Oneiroid Sleep” is an unreal haze of love, held together by chains of psaltery, zither, kalimba, cithara, sitar and shruti box, all softened by a sonambul sourdine. The courtyard vision of “A Drone Song for Alienor” begins on a warm summer morning in the palace garden, but gradually looses itself in stoney hallways and echoes of its own past.

In the title piece and final chapter of these compositions, all circling the twenty-minute mark, the bright sunlight has made way for the moods of dawn, for the time of day the Portugues call madrugada: The sky is clad in a bronzen tone, the day caught somewhere between its peak and the first signs of departure.

To arrive at this purity, the duo has gone to meticulous preparations, which prove almost all of my initial remarks wrong. First off, “Eleusian Lullaby” certainly did not come falling from the sky. Stefano Musso has proven his skills of transforming the subtle sounds of metal bowls and the finely snarling strings of traditional instruments into poetic clouds of promising whispers over the course of an over 15-year long career, which has seen him appear on some of the most prestigous labels and collaborate with decorated artists.

Galvagni, meanwhile, started her career at the tender age of 14 with a performance at the “Biennale Teatro di Venezia” – back then as an actor. The beginning of their creative liason dates back to 2001 and the album “Leaves Net”.

Secondly, the concept of “Elusian Lullaby” has been pursued by Alio Die twice before. On “Apsaras”, he teamed up with experimental vocalist and dancer Amelia Cuni, which resulted in a daring experiment which the Wire dubbed “a serious attempt to make something new and expressive from within Indian art music”. “Mei-Jyu”, meanwhile, saw Musso engage in a handshake with Japanese duo Jack and Jive and a spiritual search within the cavernous halls of Zen. Instead of presenting a novelty, “Elusian Lullaby” constitutes a temporary acme performed with the self-confidence to leave out anything unnecessary.

And finally, there is nothing simple at all about this album. It is all concentration and focus, a work which “happens” in the moment, shifting with each new breath and syllable. Every track has its own and unique approach to vocals, starting as a mere ornamentation and primus inter paris on “The Oneiroid Sleep”, growing into rolling vocalises on “A Drone Song for Alienor” and solidifying in fey Latin chants in the dark finale.

Musso’s work, meanwhile, is close to being a revelation: His drones do not so much live from harmony, but from a continued rhythm, they are a patchwork quilt made up of myriads of tiny elements, which form a coherent new entity.

The dedication to each and every of these elements is audible – sometimes a single swing of the shaker will suffice, on another occasion, dreamy guitar licks loose themselves in reveries without end: It feels familar, but it turns out to be full of hidden trapdoors on closer inspection. Even if it hasn’t appeared out of nowhere, my hopes are this will be repeated in some form soon.

Homepage: Alio Die
Homepage: Projekt Records

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