AMN Reviews: Domiziano Maselli – Lazzaro (2021; Opal Tapes)

On Lazzaro, Domiziano Maselli manages to make electroacoustic music in which the acoustic instrumentation can often – but not always – be distinguished from the electronic manipulation. This emphasis on organic performance does not diminish the sound art, however, as it results in a compelling set of complex pieces that are both haunting and oddly exhilarating.

Most of the instrumentation consists of strings, percussion, horns, and voice. On the strings, in particular, extended techniques are used in collages that blend with rapidly oscillating waves into a shimmering effect. These dense forests of sound are made even more interesting when combined with the percussion – some of which sounds as if the stringed instruments themselves are being struck or at least plucked aggressively. Ultimately, it is difficult to discern which parts encompass raw manual performance and which have had such performances treated electronically.

For those familiar with classic electroacoustics (it is strange to write that term…), there are the crackling tectonic structures that one might expect. But Maselli wraps so much more around these elements, including plaintive vocal lines, that the result is quite novel. Case in point, A Desolation Chant features a softly wailing horn over deep drones and other processing. Gethsemane relies on angular violin and cello, with glissando and low-end rumbling evoking a modern classical feel that builds into explosive peaks. A Storm is perhaps the outlier and is a short recording of just that – a storm. There may be some processing involved as well but the piece is rather straightforward and sits in contrast to the rest of the recordings.

The centerpiece of the album is the two-part Lazzaro, over 19 minutes in length. Here, sawed and strained violins mix with static, drones, and generated noises. Abstract rhythms pulse and reverberate, while tones ring. The overall structure is quite active with these sounds appearing, disappearing, and then reprising. The first part ends with a stacking of airy, mid-frequency drones softly punctuated by more processed features. The second part finishes off the album with spiky pulled strings, gritty layers, and high-end sparkling. This is followed by echoing alien sounds and a return of recognizable violin parts.