AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Nonono Percussion Ensemble – Excantatious [Setola di Maiale SM4340]

“Excantation” is the act of freeing a victim of enchantment through counter-enchantment—wielding a protective bit good magic to ward off bad magic. It also serves as an apt metaphor for music’s capacity to counteract the two-year-long psychological thrall covid’s held us in.

The music on this disc was recorded at the Teatro San Leonardo in Bologna in February 2019, a year before the virus struck, which makes its theme appear particularly prescient. The group involved was the Nonono Percussion Ensemble, a trio of Gino Robair on percussion, prepared piano and electronics; Cristiano Calcagnile on drums, percussion, drumtable guitar, glockenspiel, and effects; and Stefano Giust on drums, cymbals, and percussion. The seven performances consist of finely-tuned textural music in which timbre and dynamics take the place of melody and harmony as organizing qualities. Contrasts of metal and membrane intermixed with electronic percolations; marimba-like interventions on prepared piano framed on either side by conventional drumkit; bowed and scraped cymbals over low-frequency tones—these and other sounds make up these constantly changing sonic fabrics. The ensemble’s effort is a truly collective one, and although the mix effectively separates the voices, with Giust on the left, Robair in the center, and Calcagnile on the right, all three musicians are expert colorists and sympathetic listeners able to complement each other with whatever nuance or shading is needed at any given moment.

Daniel Barbiero