TU M': Monochromes Vol. 1

The Jean Cocteau quotation accompanying Monochromes Vol. 1— “A poet always has too many words in his vocabulary, a painter too many colors on his palette, a musician too many notes on his keyboard”—speaks volumes about the refined, minimalist aesthetic Italian multimedia duo TU M' brings to its latest project. Armed with laptops and mixing boards, Rossano Polidoro and Emiliano Romanelli recorded the release's four “Monochromes” live on June 11th and July 5th, 2008 at Vico Santa Chiara Studio in Città Sant'Angelo, Italy. As a project, Monochromes constitutes a collection of “modular audio and video compositions for electronic chamber ensemble,” with this sixty-four-minute volume the first in a presumed series. Atmospheric, fragile, and anything but monochromatic, the material is ambient soundscaping of an exceptionally ravishing kind.

In the first setting, a gently wavering melody cycles amidst a vaporous mass and muffled percussive accents; in the second, faint, flute-like tones gracefully unfurl like the slow lifting of a veil as a tonal cloud smeared with static swells in volume. In the see-sawing arrangement that follows, soft whistles alternate with lower-pitched exhalations. The least melodic and most reduced of the settings, the fourth “Monochrome” moves like an immense cloud formation across the sky for a full thirty minutes, with speckles of static and crackle popping alongside its billowing tonal mass. Unusual for a piece of this kind, a shift occurs two-thirds of the way through when the mass quietens, allowing celestial tones to assert themselves more audibly.

As previously noted in the textura review of the duo's 2005 Dekorder release, Just One Night, Polidoro and Romanelli named themselves TU M' after the title of Marcel Duchamp's last painting and chose Mr. Mutt as the name for their CD-label in homage to the artist too (in 1917, Duchamp, under the name Richard Mutt, submitted his infamous urinal—known commonly as Fountain—as a sculpture in a New York exhibit). But, just as Just One Night evidences little in the way of dada-like mischief, so too is Monochromes Vol. 1 a wholly straight-faced collection . That it documents a more “serious” side of TU M' doesn't take anything away from the beauty of the recording's material.

August 2009