Published on 27th January 2022
Gasparotti – Ciullini – Stancati – Portraits
Portraits, as per its Bandcamp page, is the first in a new series from Unexplained Sounds Group, with each release creating a ‘portrait’ of three musicians by showcasing representative pieces of their recent musical journeys, and hopefully serving as an introductory guide for further listening and exploration of their work. Perhaps ironically, I came to Portraits for the further listening, rather than the introduction. I first heard Mario Lino Stancati in January last year, as one of his tracks fea-tured on The Black Stone – Music for Lovecraftian Summonings. I certainly liked his contribution to the compilation, but at the time, I guess it didn’t impress me enough to investigate further. Fast forward to August, and Eighth Tower Records had released another fantastic compilation, The Beyond – Music Inspired by the Lucio Fulci Death Trilogy, and this time Mario Lino Stancati’s contributions were my favourites. Which, obviously, has led me to Portraits.
But before we get to Mario Lino Stancati, there is the music of the first featured composer, Gabriele Gasparotti. His first piece on this compilation, Istantanea n.9, endeared itself to me immediately. Google Translate tells me that ‘Istantanea’ are snapshots, which couldn’t be more appropriate for an album of “portraits”, and this is one of two featured here. But it’s the following Dal treno della via lattea that really grabs my attention, as it reminds me of one of my favourite hometown bands, High Dependency Unit. Gasparotti may be an electronic artist, but he creates his music using analogue instruments, and maybe this is where the sonic resemblance takes place, because otherwise the two are worlds apart, both geographically and musically. Closer to home, in both senses, I’m reminded often of Alessandro Cortini, who is probably most well known for his work with Trent Reznor in Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels, but has quite the discography under his belt. Cortini’s debut solo release (that I’m aware of), as blindoldfreak, reveals that surely he and Gasparotti have shared influences. One thing I absolutely love about Gasparotti’s compositions is the way the bubbling and burbling drones of the synths are at times so beautifully intertwined and interwoven with the drones of a stringed instrument, that I’m guessing is either a violin or viola. I really like all four of these pieces, and I’m definitely intrigued enough to seek out more.
After Gasparotti comes the reason I came to this compilation, Mario Lino Stancati. The two are almost yin and yang. As bright and easy as Gasparotti is to the ear, Stancati’s music is darker and more uneasy. Both make good use of space in their compositions, but Gasparotti’s is a cosmic spaciousness, that presents itself in a dreamy and free manner (and the colour of that space is probably tangerine). Stancati is more nightmarish and freaky, and his spaces are liminal. It’s no wonder that his music so wonderfully and perfectly evokes the imagery of Lovecraft and Fulci on the two compilations he featured on last year, that I so enjoyed. And looking at his entry on Discogs, it comes as no surprise to see he has contributed to other compilations based upon classic horror stories and films. According to the Portraits Bandcamp page, Stancati is an actor, director, playwright, poet, musician and composer, and it shows as his pieces are the most dramatic and descriptive of the three musicians featured on this album. They are as visual as it’s possible for audio to be, and the sporadic use of vocals only heightens this. I note that Stancati has released an album on Unexplained Sounds Group (2020’s Cross the Desert), so I guess that will need to be the next journey I make with him.
Daniele Ciullini is the final featured composer on this first volume of Portraits, and just as Gasparotti proved to be a delectable appetiser before my intended main dish, so Ciullinii is a quite delicious dessert. Ciullini is pretty much the elder statesman here, having been making music when Gasparotti and Stancati were barely born. Ciullini’s compositions are far closer to musique concrete, and this makes for a quite different listening experience to the preceding two composers. Gasparotti and Stancati were quite different from each other, but in a way they were two sides of the same coin. Ciullini is a different currency. His pieces are more like soundscapes, or collages, full of field recordings and tape manipulations. If Gasparotti’s bubbly sounds are sometimes reminiscent of video games of decades ago, and Stancati’s of classic horror, then Ciullini is more of the mundane. Changing a radio station by manually retuning it the way we used to have to do, full of hiss and static, and the occasional voice. There’s a kind of comforting nostalgia to Ciullini’s music, that makes it perfectly suited to close out this album in a manner that leaves me full and satisfied. If this album is any indication, the Portraits series is definitely going to be one to follow, and I eagerly await the next one.
01. Gabriele Gasparotti – Istantanea n.9 (4:02)
02. Gabriele Gasparotti – Dal treno della via lattes (9:22)
03. Gabriele Gasparotti – Istantanea n.10 (4:52)
04. Gabriele Gasparotti – Notte e Nebbia (4:18)
05. Mario Lino Stancati – Lenza d’oro (4:20)
06. Mario Lino Stancati – Franava due metri più in là (5:28)
07. Mario Lino Stancati – Sanguine quaerendi reditus (6:00)
08. Mario Lino Stancati – Magma Grecia (5:32)
09. Daniele Ciullini – burning night flowers (4:49)
10. Daniele Ciullini – springtime voice (4:14)
11. Daniele Ciullini – there is nothing here (4:07)
12. Daniele Ciullini – end is on the floor (5:19)
Total Time – 62:13
Record Label: Unexplained Sounds Group
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 4th June 2021