AMN Reviews: Cristiano Bocci – Beyond the Dark Zone (2022; Unexplained Sounds Group)

Cristiano Bocci covers a lot of ground on this new release – from drone to ambient jazz to pieces driven by post-techno synthetic percussion. Bocci plays electric and acoustic basses, guitars, synths, and electronics. Guesting on various tracks are numerous horn and reed performers, a pianist, and a vocalist. Where one set of instrumentation starts and another ends can be as challenging to identify as which sounds were generated from traditional instruments as opposed to those that come from post-hoc processing.

Acid Neighbors serves as an introduction to this genre-fusing style, featuring dark ambient tones coupled with overdriven bass drones and gritty loops. Multi-layered drones follow with distorted guitar chording and sweeping electronics that fade into a twisted wall of sound. City Blur Walking combines a bass rhythm with slow trumpet themes and an unsettling synth pattern. The overall sound is reminiscent of David Torn’s early solo work but with a more distorted yet much bleaker tone. This evolves into loops of jagged guitar riffs, sculpted noise, and programmed drums. In contrast, The Night sets forth a ponderous theme with discordant guitar and bass, melancholy horns, and haunting vocals and chants from Gianluca Becuzzi.

Moving on to the second half of the album, Evil Pain combines skittering drum patterns and textural bass drones along with free improv from the horn section. The result is as disconcerting as it is dense. The Dark Zone is a reprise of the Torn-sounding themes, but with more distortion and a slowly-improvised interlude. Respiro caps things off with lo-fi late night jazz stylings. Indeed, the popping and crackling of an old record takes on a life of its own as a rhythm instrument, while a piano is played over abstract amalgamations of bits of melody and noise.

Beyond the Dark Zone was released on September 22 by the Unexplained Sounds Group.

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