Waves On Canvas:
Into the Northsea
While Waves On Canvas's Into the Northsea doesn't situate itself radically outside of the electronica genre, it's also perhaps more song-based, overtly emotive, and melodious than the Psychonavigation norm. The project and album are the brainchild of Sardinian composer and producer Stefano Guzzetti, who was born in 1972 in Cagliari (the capital city of Sardinia) and is currently studying electronic music at the Music Conservatory in his home town. Growing up, he developed an interest in computers, began programming, and found inspiration in the music of Kraftwerk, Joy Division, The Cure, and Siouxsie & the Banshees during his teenage years. The album alternates between instrumental electronica and vocal settings, with different singers appearing on each of the vocal pieces. The stirring voice of Louise Rutkowski (of This Mortal Coil) was heard prior to the album's release when the single “Angel” was issued in late 2011, and the album also features singing by Françoise Lacroix, Ian Masters, Yvette Winkler, Pieter Nooten, and Irene Nonnis.
Guzzetti's melodic gifts are on full display from the start when “Twenty Years” inaugurates the album with a pretty melancholy setting for piano and glockenspiel. It segues into the strings-heavy ballad “Angel,” which features two of the recording's most ravishing hooks (in its “When you think you're falling / Think of me I'll be there” and “‘Cause I'm your angel” lines), not to mention a powerfully heartfelt vocal by Rutkowski. Masters' voice nicely complements the acoustic guitar-driven swoon of “Starfish,” which Guzzetti otherwise dresses up with sleigh bells and xylophone. As spoken-sung by Lacroix, Marc Atkins' French lyrics lend “Voix dans une voix” a cosmopolitan air; elsewhere, Yvette Winkler and Pieter Nooten make a compelling pair when their voices are presented in unison on the piano-centric ballad “Frozen,” and Nonnis memorably recaptures the emotionalism of “Angel” on “In My Dream.”On the instrumental front, “Stella” is elevated by the sparkling synthetic treatments Guzzetti adds to its beat-driven, strings-and-electronics dramatics, whereas piano sprinkles brighten the electronic design of the brooding meditation “A Dedication.” Tracks like “Twenty Years” and “Pure” also indicate that piano is Guzzetti's core instrument, no matter how many other sounds appear on the album. For whatever reason, he chose to follow the album's first eleven songs with four minutes of seashore sounds before the appearance of the final instrumental setting “Here and Away.” There are also moments when Guzzetti would have been better to pull back on the production design—a potentially lovely piece like “Flowers of the Sea” is marred by an excess of electronic clutter when a less busy approach would have served the material better—but that's the sole weak aspect of this otherwise charming collection.