Thursday is an unassuming night to begin with, but in the basement of Vern’s Tavern, no less, four performances of ambient sounds will emerge. Alberto Boccardi and Attilio Novellino, two Italian electronic artists, are on what appears to be one of five stops on a trip across the Atlantic, starting in Chicago before coming to Calgary, up to Edmonton, and then off to Toronto and Montreal.
Attention of some sort has been piqued. In Calgary, to be sure, there’s an interest in experimental electronics, ambience, field recordings, drone — whatever your fancy — even if it’s in dusty basements or during weird hours on the radio dial. After Nicola Ratti came to Alberta to collaborate with Mark Templeton this summer, however, an outside connection was established; Novellino, looking to perform in Canada, now had some leads. It’s as if to say, “that Alberta place? Yeah, you can totally play it.”
Let’s not dwell on distance though. Focusing on the novelty of travel would miss the point of the beautiful music set to be performed. Boccardi and Novellino both have new releases they’re supporting, so this isn’t simply a case of geographic displacement; rather, like the music each creates, the fact that this particular show is even happening is a reflection of restless curiosity: a full-fledged dive through sheets of pure sound.
A recent piece from Boccardi titled “You Told Me That You Were Lying” was featured on a Wire Tapper compilation (The Wire magazine’s occasional CD accompaniment) earlier this year. As an introduction to Boccardi’s sound, it’s a good one. Particular attention should be paid to the contrast between sound and silence — here, small events can startle, with each element in its distinct compositional order: Boccardi’s music is not a hierarchy, but an instinctual environment of sound; composition done by someone who came to the acoustics of warmth through research in aerospace engineering, of all things. Armed with guitar, analog synth, pedals and other electronic tools, Boccardi’s performance will undoubtedly be multi-faceted, pulling scraps of tonal resonance (from sources both recognizable and not) as if they were strings ascended from the limbs of a marionette.
As for Novellino, the Catanzaro-based artist’s most recent album is Through Glass, a collection of dense, wind-shorn electroacoustic textures driven by melodic undercurrents — the audible equivalent of gazing through frosted glass at running water. Novellino’s compositions are weightier than Boccardi’s — thick and droning, with elements smeared together so as to maintain transient focus. No individual sound takes the lead, so to speak. Live and amplified, one can imagine these compositions taking over a whole room, enveloping the open canvas of sound like coloured dye spreading in water. To put it simply, dropping any pretense of trying to describe music with words, Novellino’s music contains some of the most emotionally gripping melodies I’ve heard in juxtaposition to textural electroacoustics all year.
Opening for Boccardi and Novellino will be a pair of Calgary acts: Pale Lobo, a.k.a. the solo psych-drone guise of Seizure Salad’s Andrew Hume, and =, the ambient duo of Avery Mitchell and Bryan Buss. With four distinct sound visions on this peculiar bill — promoting itself modestly as just “A Show,” I should add — this night promises to be an intriguing journey into a world of shifting, ethereal resonance.