AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Barnacles – One Single Sound (Boring Machines)

Matteo Uggeri has evolved from an industrial entrepreneur to melodious soul (see his work with Sparkle in Grey), serial collaborationist and, most recently, nogstalgian with Fluid Audio release Grandpa. One Single Sound, released under the name Barnacles, is his recent bathyspheric vacation from categorization, a miniature art exhibit in digipak, clashing ambient amniocity with industrial rhythms, Freudian anxiety of influence (or Jonathan Lethemnian ecstasy of same) with luminous nineteenth-century biological illustrations by Ernst Haeckel and a grunt-work quote by his esteemed colleague, Charles Darwin. An album of pilfered sound and stolen beats, it floats at one moment in mermaidless waters before cavorting like the legs of a hanged man on dry land.

In context, “one single sound” sounds like a provocation, for this is hardly a lone, stand-alone drone – it is in fact four separate pieces, each named for a sentence fragment written in a letter from Darwin about his tedious field work of 1852 – “I hate a Barnacle, as no man ever did before, not even a Sailor, in a slow-sailing ship”. Sounds have been stolen (his word) from erstwhile collaborators including Giulio Aldinucci and guitarist Maurizio Abate, and an orchestra of accordions, a yoga class and “Uncle Ronnie´s screams”. All drums have been likewise hoisted.

As it proceeds, One Single Sound only confounds. A droning hum is infected by small talk until overtaken by a pleasingly metronomic drum-circle beat. As the symphony of accordions tunes up, one comes loose, and a baritone has a stroke. A snazzy mechanical beat judders. Cymbals crash like waves on a stony beach and scatter the sunbathers. The third track, mock Himalayan singing bowls and throat chant, gets jackbooted as whispers and ghosts leak out of the radiators. The finale, unfolding delicately as an ambient flower, turns out to be something even more diffuse, a play in several acts. Pistons drive the drum program to pandemonium, as if t´ain´t no sin, to take off your skin, and dance around in your bones.

Nonplussed and yet intrigued enough to go back again and again, this quasi-steampunkian installation of man-made machinery and the briny depths is certainly singular.

Stephen Fruitman