AMN Reviews: RhaD – Metamusic (2021; Unexplained Sounds Group)

There comes a time for anyone who has listened to enough different types of music when they realize that music can be anything – there is no “right” or “wrong” types of music, only sounds. These sounds may fall at any point on various axes – bright to dark, fast to slow, simple to complex, smooth to roughly textured, disorganized to organized, and so on. Some of the more interesting pieces (to these ears at least) move about in this multidimensional space.

When music is viewed in terms of its constituent sounds, it can be thought of as having no inherent purpose. It does not have to make you feel good, relaxed, or regulate your emotions in any other way. It just is. Music can be used for any of the aforementioned purposes, and many others as well. The intent of the creator matters. But music does not require a specific goal. The overall semantic meaning of a piece of music that defies conventional norms can be largely in the mind of the listener, perhaps influenced by suggestions of the creator.

Recordings and performances that merit repeated listenings often are ones that unask this question of purpose in music. RhaD’s Metamusic is one such effort. This release, from the alter ego of the Unexplained Sounds Group label head Raffaele Pezzella, is an amalgam of field recordings, voices, tapes, and radio transmissions, mixed with snippets of electronic and classical music. None of these constituent elements dominate, as Pezzella mixes the old with the new and the analog with the digital.

Musique concrete forms the basis of many of these tracks, with sculpted sounds overlaying recorded source material. While combinations of these elements are seemingly random at times, there is an underlying logic to the arrangements. For example, cosmic electronic liltings accentuate the strangeness of looped spoken word pieces on Pol Pot. Stereo test signals alterations. In contrast, the next track, Telephonic Art followed by Chamber Music, has a descriptive title. The first few minutes consist of fragments of phone calls (including dial and ring sounds) interlaced with static and effects. This transforms into plaintive chamber music performed by Daniel Barbiero on double bass, Francesco Arrighi on piano, and Mara Lepore also on piano. These two disparate passages of source material are oddly linked by mood.

Straddling the retro and the modern, Pezzella’s RhaD project is a notably original contribution to the sound art genre. Through these arrangments he builds, brick-by-brick, strange and haunting outlines of stories to be filled in by the listener’s subjective experience. Very well done.