Roberto Crippa – Reverse (2014)

Debut LP from Italian Noise and Ambient artist Roberto Crippa with Reverse, out on the We Can Elude Control label.

We open with “Reflection” as we begin to peer through the looking glass down into the still but murky waters of what lies beyond. It’s a dark and brooding piece from the outset and it’s determined to get us into an unsettled mood ready for the journey ahead with its wet synth slaps, mysterious and shifting scuttles and scrapes and evocative drone spans. It’s a surprisingly organic piece for something that’s so sparse and menacing, full of little skittering lifeforms. It eventually crawls its way to followup “Order, which is entirely more active and driven right from the get go. A slow and carefully placed drumline sets the slow marching pace of its namesake and becomes something of the axis of the track, the distortion swirling around it and fraying its edges with chaos whilst binding together the light wafts of ethereal backing drone. Piercing shafts of synth light bring some illumination to affairs but its a stark and harsh one, revealing the hard contrast between order and chaos.

As we go on little progress is made with the soundscape; “Still” arrives on a similar platter as the opener did and evolves loosely into a wash of jittering electronic noise and glitches, menacing bells tolling and sending these restless microorganisms of sound skittering in its wake, like tiny fish in a pond. Despite my imagery its a surprisingly lifeless piece to my ears; it’s fairly content to just stay practically motionless and only in the closing moments do we hear something vaguely reminiscent of a delicate synth riff. Metaphysical references continue onwards with “Spectrum” and we’re starting to get into a sound I can get behind. Thick, buried and stilted synth lines throb in the heart of the mix as they try to burst free, encased in that stuttering glitch fuzz, those low and broad wavelengths on the EM spectrum drowned out by the background noise of the small wavelength stuff. Finally it doesn’t feel aimless and it’s got a sense of scale, of progression, clearly and slowly expanding in scope and eeriness with its twisted, inhuman sounds.

“Matter” is probably the finest work of the album, a clear and conscientious mass of lush, ordered drones weaving the fabric of reality, populated by gorgeously gritty pulses of growling guitar and spastic glitch. Much like our expanding universe the piece balloons in volume and scope and ferocity in a dark but most intimate crescendo across its duration. It’s the realisation of the scale of our universe as a child, the overwhelming anxiety of the seemingly infinite black that extends in every direction and our microscopic part in the cosmic dance. It’s a stunner for sure, and “Vector” is not bad itself, skirting “Matter”‘s coattails with a pulsating bassline and repetitive riffs, synonymous with the infinitely scalable and beautifully precise algorithms of its namesake. It’s a little unambitious for sure though, and ends rather abruptly to allow it to shift gears into the cavernous rumbles of “Curved”, whose echoic drone opener slipstreams into a complex plethora of piercing skiffs and juddering bass of epic proportion but in a kind of restrained and reserved sort of way.

Finally “Helix” arrives to close the album for us in perhaps the most alarming way possible. Whilst it’s nothing we havent already heard before, there’s something about the bent and smeared guitars in this final track that make it so much more dangerous and imposing than anything else, the music refreshing and resetting itself on every turn of the circle as it quickly cycles towards its point of origin, curling back upon itself in a dramatic and self-destructive finalé of panicked and oppressive noise. And just like that, just as we find ourselves at the terrifying yet mesmerising peak, it cuts out and we lapse back into silence.

I’m hesitant to conclude because the reality of this album is that I have no idea what it’s trying to convey as a whole. Perhaps nothing; there does seem to be something of a lose metaphysical theme and much of the sonic repertoire is repeated throughout, it’s relatively cohesive in that sense, I just dont get what I’m supposed to get out of it. That being said I’m not Noise’s biggest campaigner and I often dont understand the appeal of those records that dont have the scale and rawness and catharsis of my genre favourites, but there’s some pretty stunning tracks here nonetheless. It took me a while to get into but there’s something in the refined style of “Matter” and the brash “Helix” that I love wholeheartedly, I just wish there were a little more dynamism and progression in some of the other works.