Fabio Orsi: Sterminato Piano (LP, Backwards, June 2019)

For a while now there’s been a slow but steady resurgence of form of music that, for want of a better term, I’m going to call kosmische. You know the kind of thing: analogue synths, or good emulations if not, sequenced into big fat motorik swirls of sound. At it’s best, it can be rather lovely: warm, immersive, and satisfying (check out the 2017 release Synthwaves by Tangerine Dream’s Quaeschning & Schnauss, say). At it’s worst, it can be derivative and dull, lazily using the instant nostalgic appeal of the sound palette to mask the fact that it really has nothing very interesting to say.

You can see where this is going, I’m sure: this record really is a supreme example of the breed. There are two tracks, clocking in at just under 15 and 19 minutes respectively, with Orsi on synths, sequencer, and field recordings. And both are fantastic from start to finish. Just check out the opening bars of the A-side, Amai Il Vento, for heaven’s sake: a simple sequence of a handful of notes repeats, but the dynamics are to die for, a sinuous spiral of filter-driven goodness winding infectiously through the melody that lifts it from the pretty to the magnificent. And then that building, building intensity, without ever losing that deftness. This is maximalist music made with a minimalist’s attention to detail. I’m no musicologist and I’m no poet and I’m not really doing justice to this so go stick some headphones on and just click that play button. You can thank me later.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Modern Classical / Ambient.

Quaeschning & Schnauss: Synthwaves (LP, Azure Vista, June 2017)

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It’s 2017! Nobody wants to listen to a couple of middle-aged German dudes with enormous banks of synths!  This is what punk was sent to save us from, amirite? Well, sure, except that it turns out that I really like this. Thorsten Quaeschning and Ulrich Schnauss are part of the most recent line-up of Tangerine Dream, although they were only born around the band’s classic period in the late ’70s, and Schnauss only joined just before Edgar Froese’s death in 2015. And although the sound is certainly more up-to-date — the tech has advanced, for one thing, and there are occasional modern stylistic touches, most notably the Frahm-ish close-miked piano intro to Slow Life, and you could probably make a case for an influence from ’90s IDM — it has to be said that it’s all rooted very firmly in kosmische. Certainly, compared to the likes of Caterina Barbieri’s recent record, it is pretty old hat. But it’s also really lovely, melodic, organic, warm, and uplifting stuff to salve the soul in these trying times.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Coldwave / Synth.