Time Elapsing Handheld
Time Elapsing Handheld, the third full-length release by Italian experimental musician Emanuele Errante (his debut album Migrations appeared in 2007), naturally situates itself within the electro-acoustic ambient genre associated with figures such as Marsen Jules and Deaf Center. Unfortunately the album is neither as melodically memorable as the work associated with the former nor does it have the kind of unsettling character that makes the latter's recordings so memorable. Certainly Errante's no slouch in the sound sculpting department, as his convincing handling of acoustic and electronic textures in the album's compositions attests, but the material ends up leaving the listener unsatisfied. Like other genre practitioners, Errante merges acoustic instrument sounds (acoustic guitar, piano, harp), field recordings, and electronic elements into atmospheric settings of, in this case, relatively modest duration.
On paper, it all appears decent enough. In the opening “Leaving To Nowhere,” staccato utterances of what sound like flute and piano flutter against a high-pitched electronic-string drone, the whole building into a dense mass that sustains itself for three minutes before a lilting acoustic guitar pattern appears to counter it with earthly contrast. Co-composed with and co-executed by Simon Scott, “Made To Give” weaves vaporous exhalations, low-pitched tones, and acoustic strums into a rippling cloud of electro-acoustic abstraction. A looping rhythmic pulse lends “Counterclockwise” an insistence and urgency it wouldn't otherwise have, with interest generated by the inclusion of exotic percussive spice and sudden punctuations of minimal piano figures. “Dorian's Mirror” is certainly an evocative choice of title, given the images conjured by the allusion to the Oscar Wilde's novel, and the brooding music succeeds at suggesting the stretching out of time as well as the bewilderment at being confronted with what time's passing can engender. “Memoirs” ends the album in a suitably mysterious fashion with echoing guitar plucks and indecipherable voices heard against a shimmering backdrop that repeats with a Marsen Jules-like insistence.
Errante's handling of the material is effective, as he restricts the album to seven well-developed pieces that add up to a perfectly satisfying forty-four-minute running time. And it's certainly the case that his carefully crafted music, especially when experienced via headphones, rewards one's time and attention, but it also seems as if there's something lacking. There's no question Errante's a sound designer of note and on technical grounds the material can't be faulted either. Compositionally, however, the pieces impress less than they otherwise might when they're generally mood pieces that eschew a strong melodic dimension. Consequently the listener drifts along in tandem with the music but is never swept up to any deep emotional degree during the ride, nor is one's soul ever stirred. Put simply, one admires and appreciates the album's pieces without being moved by them, and as a result Time Elapsing Handheld fails to leave a lasting mark on the listener.