Divus - Divus II [Boring Machines - 2020]The 2nd LP by Italian space jazz duo Divus was just released this year on Boring Machines. Their stripped down sound is a novel combination of baritone saxophone and delay laden analog synth progressions, with a feeling and production not unlike a vintage sci-fi soundtrack. The group's minimalist, circular patterns transport the listener to the cold outer reaches.
Unlike most of the music I've heard combining electronics with jazz, this recording draws influence from dark techno and classic ambient rather than house, breaks or dub. This element of Divus' sound comes from Luciano Lamanna, the producer of the duo. Luca Tommaso Mai's saxophone is arranged into phrases in lockstep with powerful kinetic pulses from the drum machine. They are not afraid of repetition, gradually developing atmospheres in a smooth undulation over the steady pulse, shaping delay contrails and punctuating the space with long tones. They amass a great deal of dramatic energy as the saxophone phrases gradually evolve into piercing intensity. At times the sound of the drums is completely blown out, and there is a certain fuzzy tape grain to the entire production.
At other points, there are desolate, ashen landscapes with little movement, like the surface of the moon or a volcano. Soft, shuffling murmurs tap and bounce off the various canyon walls. An astronaut takes slow, careful steps. It brings to mind musique concrete, classic Star Trek and Dr. Who, albums like Joel Vandroogenbroeck's "Biomechanoid" and early Tangerine Dream. On these slower pieces, the saxophone plays lush, full melodic phrases over the sparse openness, freed of the confines of the loop. The final piece of the seven (all are untitled) is the most poignant of all.
In conclusion, fans of analog electronics and classic sci-fi soundtrack music should enjoy this. Though it may lack the bright synth tonalities preferred by Berlin School fans, the novel addition of the saxophone more than makes up for it with highly expressive melodic content of a different variety. This album is instantly transporting and, at twenty seven minutes, is a concise, briskly paced and repeatable experience, uncommon for something in the 'ambient' category.Josh Landry