VA: Zaum Vol. 1

Psychonavigation goes the Glacial Movements route on this hour-long collection of oft-isolationist ambient works by Italian producers. Compiled by Enrico Coniglio and Emanuele Errante, the album's eleven pieces were composed specifically for this release. Some tracks are beatless soundscapes that convey the desolate grandeur of depopulated frozen terrain, while others are sunnier, beat-based settings and acoustic settings.

Appropriately the pole position's given to Glacial Movements label owner Netherworld whose “Jostedaal” is like a mournful funeral procession across the Arctic plains. A scratchy voice emerges alongside ghostly strings and heartbeat pounds in his beautiful, slow-motion dirge. Massimo Liverani's “Primavera,” a synthesizer-based excerpt from a soundscape work Liverani composed for a theme park of a sound garden, is as pure as a mountain stream, while Aquadorsa's (Enrico Coniglio and Oophoi) “Daylight Fading Into Evening Silence” sways lullingly, its softly surging waves and granular textures supported by a lazy beat pulse. Inspired by the Alpha Centauri double star system, Dario Antonelli's hypnotic ambient setting  “ZX-21 Part I”  presents eleven minutes of gently glimmering swells that are like an aural transcription of brain activity during deep sleep (though you'd never guess from listening to it, Antonelli generated the material by playing an electric bass through a Lexicon Vortex). In its own quiet way, Antonelli's powerful piece may be the album's high point.

A small number of pieces inhabit a surprisingly acoustic sphere that's in dramatic contrast to the chilly synthetic ambiance heard elsewhere. “Thank You,” for example, is a sweet interlude by con_cetta (Guiseppe Condaro) and Antartica (David Lo Iacono) that's given a natural boost with acoustic piano, and Arlo Bigazzi and Arturo Stalteri punctuate delicate acoustic guitar and piano playing in “Stregatto” with streaks and ruptures. In “Terminali (Source 1.0),” Illàchime Quartet contributes a nightmarish and sometimes woozy mini-soundtrack using piano, electric guitar, and cello as sound sources, while Zoo Div Vetro's “Amaliadiesis” is closer in spirit to a gently flowing and densely textured post-rock exercise than an ambient soundscape. By now it should be clear that this first Zaum volume ultimately turns out to be much more stylistically varied than is suggested by its barren cover photography.

September 2009