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CD Feature/ Nicola Ratti: "From the Desert Came Saltwater"

img  Tobias
There are several explanations why, as I’m writing this, a band by the name of 3 Doors Down is topping the US Billboard charts while Nicola Ratti’s “From the Desert Came Saltwater” isn’t even among the first 200 entries. Ignoring factors such as haircuts and biceps diameter, the most important reason is that Ratti isn’t shouting loud enough for his music to be heard by the masses.

You can take that expression quite literally:Trying to enjoy this album downtown on your headphones on a busy day is like reciting poetry during a Black Metal concert: Regardless of your verses’ beauty, noone’s going to understand a word. It is an issue many sound artists these days are facing – the battle against the noise terror of the city – and one which puts Ratti’s work into perspective: Quite obviously, his music wants to be appreciated in silence, demands to be felt with the listener’s complete attention and in an organic environment

Keeping all this in mind, it is important to stress that “From the Desert Came Saltwater” may be pussyfooting, yet presents itself with confidence, never coming across as an ephemeral hush. Anticipate Recordings are referring to the record as “Subtractive Rock”, but one might just as well call it “Additive Folk”: Gently strummed acoustic guitar patterns create a flow, a continous, congruent and constantly changing undulation, while warm hiss, close-miked micronoises and Ratti’s brittle vocals, seemingly picked up from far away, entwine themselves around its lush banks.

Trudging drums occasionally build into funeral-march rhythms, but quickly fall apart into their individual components, the groove dissolving into loose islands of percussive dots. When this happens, tracks have the appearance of stripped-down Jazz, fragily nocturnal and freightfully numbed. But on most occasions, pieces are rather on the relaxed side of things than the depressed, coming across as spaced-out instead of drugged.

This playful amalgam of almost primordially traditional and exploratively experimental techniques (such as electronic timbre-transformations and the piling of several layers of guitar into thick, warm sheets of sound) creates associations of structure and form, which are in turn ingeniously disappointed to make way for something more open, majestic and meaningful. Again and again, pieces seem to develop into regular songs, but then the chorus never comes, the singer gets lost somewhere in the haze of an auburn lull and the music starts drifting, on its own accord, to places noone could have predicted.

As Summer is approaching, “From the Desert Came Saltwater” is an almost perfect album to find real rest: Take it to the cooling shade of your favourite tree, close your eyes while you catch a last glimpse of the luscious green of the rolling hills around you and allow yourself to listen without troubling your mind with any unnecessary questions. Somewhere in the glow of the heatchoked city, in thousands of traffic-jammed cars, radios are blaring out the latest single of 3 Doors Down, but from up here, you can’t hear them.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Nicola Ratti
Homepage: Anticipate Recordings

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