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Andrea Belfi - Wege [Room40 - 2012]

Andrea Belfi is a truly unclassifiable musician who has been releasing diverse and subtle sound works since 2001.  This album "Wege" is one of two she put out on the Room40 label in 2012.  With a long list of studio musicians and influences ranging from post rock to classical to deep listening / new music, it's an ambitious project.  The album is divided into 4 tracks, titled A - D.  A and B, at 15 minutes each, are much longer than the others.

Initially sounding scattered and improvisatory, it soon begins to swell in a hazy, circular chamber rock ostinato with weeping cellos and percolating chimes.  Belfi never allows the structure to become linear, however: the post rock-ish musical fragment flits away into subsonic rumbles and spoken German phrases which are set strangely loud and naked against the soft ambience.

The dulled, ghostly harmonics of gamelan percussion deepen the intoxicating ritual forboding of the sound.  I am reminded of a museum I visited that contained ancient stone figures from Thailand, mostly depicting various Gods alternately violent and existing in perfect serenity.  A colorful womb of digitally processed synth and voice presences fills in the space around this percussion until the end of this first movement.

The second movement is simply wonderful, settling into a smokey lounge groove provided by a drumset played with brushes and a whole chorus of shakers.  The thick chords are permeated by a soup of shimmering sound from various stringed instruments, vibraphones and e-bows.  The piece thins out after several minutes, much as the first movement did, and there are many minutes of lightly but quickly tapped hi hats, for an effect that imitates the rain.  Mournful, bending long tones are struck by each of the instruments in succession, and later small melodic phrases.  It's an odd weightless feeling that is created.

These tracks may be lengthy, but they change quite frequently within their running time, and are thus easy to listen to.  Despite the avant garde elements, musicality is at the absolute forefront of these musician's priorities, and there's a strong tonal foundation at the root of this music with a warm folky undertone.  They've taken some of the most subtle emotive qualities of post rock and stripped them of their excessive melodrama, and made the perfect rainy day album, as comforting as it is melancholy.

"C", the shortest piece at 2 minutes, is a reprise of sorts, with more radio static, spoken vocals and scattered drums and gamelan.  Some high pitched feedback trails emerge during the second half that could have come from a vintage sci-fi soundtrack.

"D", the final piece, begins with field recordings in which birds, cars and other sounds of civilization are audible, including church bells.  Some of the crackles and pops within the recording increase in volume and begin to stand out. until they finally settle into an uneven tribal rhythm, and are joined by a muffled sub-bass.  The gamelan percussion returns upon each downbeat to contribute its heady, eerie tones.  This is the most rhythmic track on the album, almost an IDM or downtempo track, but significantly more earthy and organic in texture than most of the genre.  Adding to the oddness is the metallic purity of a harmonic heard within the depths of the mix.  Belfi certainly has an original and singular vision of orchestration.

I highly recommend "Wege" to anyone who can appreciate slow paced instrumental music, especially anyone who already appreciates similar music such as The Boats, or other such bands that dwell in the ambient realms of post rock.  There's a great deal of textural beauty and harmonic detail to be discovered here, and a uniquely exotic and spiritual feeling expressed with a masterful touch.  There are plenty of comforting consonant chords, but there is also a constant sense of the unknown and the mysterious.  I'll certainly be listening back through Andrea Belfi's discography

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Josh Landry
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