SaffronKeira: Tourette
Denovali Records

Given that those afflicted with Tourette's Syndrome aren't able to contain their sometimes profane outbursts, one might expect SaffronKeira's Tourette to evidence a similarly uncontrolled quality. On the contrary, the album's eight pieces are models of balance, with every sound and sample calibrated and fine-tuned to the greatest possible degree. The recording arrives a mere six months after Eugenio Caria's debut SaffronKeira album A New Life (a double-CD set no less) appeared midway through 2012, and the new recording's seventy-four minutes make a compelling case for the producer's distinctive brand of electronica (curiously, though, the credits list Caria as arranger, performer, and mixer whereas the writing of the tracks is attributed to Francesca Sanna). And make no mistake—it is electronica, as opposed to some hybrid form that flirts with techno, house, or noise, even if rhythms do sometimes emerge (as occurs during “1859-1904,” where a glitchy beat pattern strolls through a Moroccan city where exotic music is faintly heard through the curtained doorway of an opium den).

Press notes suggest that Caria's thematic focus is less on one neurological disorder and more on neurological diseases in general. That shift in meaning, in fact, offers a clearer connection to the album's eight settings as they often resemble in their structure the complex neural network within the brain and the variegated paths traced by its electrical impulses. In the typical SaffronKeira piece, electronic and acoustic sounds rub shoulders with judiciously selected samples, with all elements arranged with a surgical precision that borders on obsessive. Nowhere is that sense of balance more evident than during “First Steps,” a magnificently sculpted example of Caria's electronica. A carefully measured stream of sounds, electronic and otherwise, whirrs and clicks throughout its patiently unfolding eleven minutes, with motifs and melodic phrases gradually emerging and then just as gradually receding from view.

An equal degree of care is brought to other pieces: “Motion” embeds a woman's spoken reflections within a brooding array of symphonic synth phrases; the ghostly notes of a piano briefly appear amidst the creaks and whistles of electronic rhythms during “Fragile”; “The Disease” is elevated by a powerful orchestral passage of strings and horns; and the closing “The Hope” likewise weaves orchestral strings, percussion, and synthesizers into a dramatic set-piece. If there's one piece that most suggests a state of hysteria and derangement, it's “Obsessive Compulsive,” which weaves buzzing flies, fluttering electronic noises, heavy breathing, and synth washes into a hallucinatory collage. But even here Caria's controlling hand is everywhere present, and the material never, thankfully, lapses into incoherence.

February 2013