Ever put a new album on and halfway through the first track you are ready to purchase the artist’s entire catalog? That was my experience recently with Mana from Gianluca Becuzzi. Based in Rome and active since the 1980s, Becuzzi draws from a wide variety of styles including electroacoustic, drone, industrial, ambient and sound art, but has an approach that is distinct and singular.
Becuzzi plays guitar and bass, and incorporates samples and programming into the mix. Cristiano Bocci provides double bass on two tracks.
The first thing you’ll notice about Mana are the overdriven guitar chords. Nonetheless, Becuzzi modulates these massive riffs with percussion and samples of both acoustic instrumentation as well as sounds with less identifiable sources. So you will hear strings, woodwinds, synths, and drums…or at least something resembling these devices. Other samples are more esoteric or abstract, including sculpted noise, chants of Tibetan monks, and sounds from nature. There is a disjointed jump-cut style to some pieces, moving from palette to palette but somehow Becuzzi makes this work.
Regarding mood, it is dark and jarring. Becuzzi often incorporates dissonance, exploring the beat patterns between two notes or through electronic distortion. The result is disquieting and haunting, even as his guitar playing provides elevated energy levels. The percussion is often martial in nature, fitting the ominous tone of the album.
Mana is a 2CD release, with over 90 minutes of music. It is what we might get if a Dead Can Dance / Sunn O))) genetic chimera went to Hell, collaborated with Stockhausen, and came back an order of magnitude better. Bravo and two thumbs way up.