AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Polbrone – o-nulu (Self-released)

Lo these many years ago, 2005 I believe it was, the brothers Andrea and Simone Salvatici did leave their native Italy to resettle in fair Albion. London, the Big Smoke. And there they did make a joyful sound as Clorinde. Drawing inspiration, as I wrote elsewhere, “from late medieval Europe, they play in minimalist, cyclic oblongs with room for improvisation inside the ellipses, wielding an array of plucked acoustic instruments, mandolin, bouzouki and banjo, kalimba, zither and ukulele, as well as bowed and struck glockenspiel, keyboards, drums and electric guitar. Their wood, metal and catgut sounds startlingly crisp, clear and contemporary, but the brothers titivate them with digital electronics to imbue mustiness and patina.”

Thus The Creative Listener and not long after, a double album soundscaping The Gardens of Bomarzo, with over forty tracks, as sprawling as the infamous park in Viterbo, just north of Rome. Built in that mid-Renaissance time when the Enlightenment was young, science was still all tangled up with purported secret Hermetic knowledge and curiosity only killed the cat when it was required for some alchemical experiment. Designed to assuage the grief of the local prince, who had just lost his dear wife, he and his landscaper defied the symmetry of the typical Renaissance garden and filled it with mythographic statuary. The album Clorinde made in its honour was a kind of cross between an outdoor fair and a ´70s theme album, like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, in scope and narrative ambition. It´s a fine thing to hear, especially if you´ve visited the bizarre, amusing park.

The brothers recently announced that they have rebranded themselves as Polbrone and made a drastic about-face with o-nulu, programming computers while gazing at the shoes beneath their guitars. Now wielding axes, they have chopped their mandolins, bouzokis, kalimbas, etc., into kindling wood and on “Dolores” attack the air in intense, deliberate waves, as if hoping to cleave the thickness of its atoms. “Pigs of Gavorrano” begins tinkling like rose quartz in sunlight before the guitars crizzle its clarity and clouds of feedback are shot through with electric malfunction. Banish the clouds and the sunlight returns to illuminate a cozy, hillside village cottage. There´s lemonade on the porch but it´s been spiked. Beholding the “Watermelon Fields” stretched out from the front yard down into the valley below, the bucolic scene begins to waver, both the sound of it and the sight of it, until some of the watermelons start blowing up.

An interesting introduction to an unexpected left turn in the duo´s career.

Stephen Fruitman

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