Time is a blurry concept to me after months of a covid changed world. I believe we are now in the year 2021, but I continue to find gems from 2020. After immediately becoming enamoured with Deadburger’s La Chiamata from last year (this year), it is now another Italian oddity which has me head over heels in love. The culprit this time is Yosonu, with his third album, Namastereo. It’s hard to describe the music of Yosonu (the vehicle of Giuseppe Costa), except to call it unique. Much of the album is made from the use of a combination of treated and untreated a cappella body percussion and vocalisation, which are often looped. When there are musical instruments, they are rarely conventional. The major exceptions to this are the opening and closing numbers, and the bass clarinet of Enrico Gabrielli on Cucamanda. I’m not sure what the album title is meant to refer to, but given the artwork and the way much of Yosonu’s vocalisations remind me of the konnakol and padhant of Carnatic and Hindustani music, I’m choosing to interpret it as ‘Namaste in stereo’, and therefore a recognition and a celebration of the divine and sacred in us all. And perhaps, a reflection on how much of the music on this album comes from the musician himself as an instrument.
So instruments – or lack thereof – aside, how does one describe the music of Yosonu? Well, the easiest description of Namastereo would be to call it industrial or electronic, but this would be doing it a great disservice for it is so much more. It reminds me a little of fellow Italians Area. That band tends to be grouped in with the more symphonic progressive acts of the ’70s, but I always felt they were closer to the bands of the RIO and avant scenes. The music of Yosonu doesn’t necessarily sound like Area to me, but it is undoubtedly reminiscent of them. If Trent Reznor took Area and Bobby McFerrin and mashed them in a blender, this might start to approach the sound of Yosonu, but it still wouldn’t be close. Honestly, though there could well be other music like this, I’ve never heard anything quite like Yosonu. I can’t make comparisons, because I simply don’t know what to compare it to.
The album opens with a number. The number 38.515712 to be precise, though precisely what this number means I have no idea. The music, though, is quite beautiful, beginning with a jaunty tune played by a bassoon, soon augmented by a cello, then violin and more. The tune becomes more and more off-kilter, before bursting into an explosion of sound. As brief as a thunderous storm can often be, the number dies away, and Cucumanda makes its presence known in a bold and certain manner. This is a powerful statement of intent that is impossible to ignore, and is definitely a favourite track on the album. The presence of the bass clarinet is merely the icing on the cake. The bass clarinet is one of my favourite instruments, and it’s definitely impossible to ignore in this piece – but it’s far from the star of the show. That is definitely the body percussion and vocalisations of Yosonu, which is no less astounding after umpteen listens than it was the first time. It could so easily be a gimmick, but Yosonu makes it an integral part of the composition.
Tristi Per Caso then pounds in with an industrial pulse, and again the body percussion and vocalisations are the meat of the piece. Initially melancholic, the track becomes far more upbeat towards the end, before falling back to a reverberating industrial beat, which vaguely segues into Mono Moon, almost seeming more by chance than design – though this is clearly not the case. Everything about Nastrostereo comes across as deliberately and meticulously precise and planned. Mono Moon is a very short track, and as much as I like it, I’m kind of glad of this. Despite its sparse arrangement compared to some of the other tracks, it is perhaps the most heavy and unsettling. Silence, with guest vocals from Lavinia Mancusi, provides a palpable sense of relief – though perhaps only briefly. The introductory passage lulls the listener somewhat into a false sense of security. But this is one of the greatest joys of the album, as nothing is ever quite what one expects. The twists and turns are expertly articulated, and never become tiresome or clichéd. The final moments of Silence are simply sublime.
In fact, it is often the endings to the songs which are most magical. This Journey is a quite beautiful song, which is taken to the next level in the final minutes. It is followed by its almost polar opposite, ?, in all its glitchy glory. Again, as the song progresses it provides a change towards the end that is quite awesome. Another favourite. But then, I feel like they’re all favourites. I absolutely love See More too, which is entirely vocal driven. It’s a complete delight, even though it has moments of malice that seem counter to the overall joyful sound. And with that, we are brought back to the start, with a reprisal of the opening ensemble piece. It has a new number now, though I still don’t know what it refers to.
Namastereo was to be released on 1st April last year, but covid delayed the physical release until 3rd August. I didn’t find out about it until this year. If you ever wanted to know why the saying is “better late than never”, then the proof is in this pudding. Yosonu, I bow to you. Namaste.
01. 38.515712 (2:41)
02. Cucumanda (4:50)
03. Tristi Per Caso (5:02)
04. Mono Moon (1:19)
05. Silence (6:19)
06. This Journey (5:51)
07. ? (4:27)
08. See More (3:17)
09. 16.164102 (4:13)
Total Time – 37:59
Yosonu (Giuseppe Costa) – Percussion, Vocals, Kalimba, Beatbox, Vietnamese Jaw Harp, Body Percussion, Bins, Objects
Enrico Gabrielli – Bass Clarinet (track 2)
Lavinia Mancusi – Vocals (track 5)
Giuseppe Federico – Bassoon (tracks 1 & 9)
Mario Licciardello – Cello (tracks 1 & 9)
Domenico Modafferi – Violin (tracks 1 & 9)
Eliana Moscato – Flute (tracks 1 & 9)
Valeria Caudullo – Electric bass (tracks 1 & 9)
Davide Mezzatesta – Electric guitar (tracks 1 & 9)
Record Label: La Lumacha Dischi
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 1st April 2020 (download) / 3rd August 2020 (physical)