Giuseppe Ielasi - The Prospect [12k - 2022]
Experimental Italian guitarist Giuseppe Ielasi has released many works since debuting in the mid '90s, as well as co-founding multiple labels too. His largely improvisatory music explores the ambient soundscape possibilities of the guitar. His latest recording, The Prospect, is released on famed art ambient label 12k, and features two 20-minute tracks which function much like sides of an LP.
The central idea of both pieces seems to be a sort of call and response between Ielasi and himself, with two tracks of guitar playing simultaneously, panned left and right. He employs a Morton Feldman-esque minimalism in which each quaint phrase dissipates into silence before another is played.
The patient minimalism is undermined whenever Ielasi departs from a comfortable consonance into a seemingly random dissonance. He will dwell upon a particular pleasant set of notes for a minute or two, and an ambient space begins to be created, only to shift it up by a sickly half step or tritone and play it again, stifling momentum. It's as if he's a beginning guitar player who stumbles out of key by accident, unaware that the pitch he's about to play isn't in the chosen scale. Ielasi may be contented with this meandering lack of specificity when it comes to the tonal realms he inhabits, but for me it results in the piece barely feeling like a single thematic entity.
My impression is mostly that there isn't much cohesion here. Ultimately, each moment has too little to do with the next. Ielasi never quite strings enough thoughts together to form any kind of 'train of thought'. I'm left feeling like I simply listened to him practice for twenty minutes, and it wasn't a very focused session. I've heard solo free jazz recordings with this kind of whimsical approach that worked in an engaging way (Mats Gustaffson's Bengt), but this is achieved by restless attempts to find new sounds and rhythms within the instrument. The energy level of this album is very sluggish, and the style never significantly changes at any point in the recording, with the unanchored chromatic feeling and softly plucked notes continuing for forty minutes, until the air feels quite heavy.
The main redeeming quality of the recording is the tone of Ielasi's guitar, which is indeed beautiful, singularly luminous, with pleasant accentuation of harmonics. The sound of his guitar has all the warmth and melodic clarity of an acoustic, yet with a gentle saturation that suggests it is amplified. I'm reminded of Bill Frisell's beautiful ambient moments in the Naked City project. Now, if only he'd use this guitar in a more specific, intentional manner.
For the physical qualities of its timbre and the thick stillness of its pacing, there is a sort of relaxed state created by this album, yet I don't have a high opinion of Ielasi's performance itself. I could achieve the same state of directionless reverie by picking up a guitar and lightly, aimlessly strumming it every eight to ten seconds. His technical skill likely far exceeds my own, yet he doesn't allow us to hear it here. The sound of his guitar is lovely, but it's as if the notes he has chosen do not matter, to him or to the listener, such is the strangely vacant way it is played. For more info, drop by hereJosh Landry