Al Di Là by Simone Forti

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Memorial Day should always celebrate those pioneering spirits who came before us. One such visionary, Italian multidisciplinary artist Simone Forti, with the aid of LA label Saltern, has compiled Al Di Là alongside Tashi Wada. Now in her eighties she has worked with some of the most celebrated noisemakers including LaMonte Young, Charlemagne Palestine, Z’EV and others. Here the record is mastered by none other than Stephan Mathieu who does an incredible job locating incredible details in the spaces in between the sounds, et al. Molimo is soft, tribal, and as slow as a classic Wim Wenders film. These works run from the 1960’s through the 80’s presenting her voice, often sing song, in a bit of a chant style (Censor). Released with a twenty-eight page booklet, in an edition of 500 on CD, this is a must-have retrospective of nine works, her first released collection of recordings.

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This is earthy, yet could play easily alongside some of the microsound makers who came many years hence. It’s an intriguing wake-up call that the past requires a double-take. Young makes a guest appearance here, as does NY multimedia artist Marian Zazeela. Face Tunes (1968) is super grounded, with a airy flute-like tone driving it through an understated static drone. Many visual and performing artists have incorporated the field of sound in their work, sometimes incidental, sometimes integral. Yet the effect of how its used here, even on the periphery informs the work so atmospherically, there is no separation between audio and visual.

Forti’s gorgeous cracking vocal sans instrumentation on Dammi Dammi Quel Fazzolettino is sweet and gutting, like a mother’s lullaby. And on the lengthiest track here, Bottom employs percussion that emulates its title, it’s big and bold. Using only drum, the inner echoes bounce and repel from left to right, becoming increasingly tribal. After just over five minutes a collective of voices enter. It sounds as if they are saying “ahhhh” for a dentist at first, but the repetition and layering is woven into a quasi barbershop quartet. The effect is deceivingly numbing, almost industrial, or like a broken chord on an old church organ, until the break, only to continue until a vacuum enters. The tone recalls an airplane in flight, at a distance and moving closer to the ear. The white noise leads to a simple human whistle that takes the track to its end.

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Largo Argentina has a spirited Forti howling to yodeling, birdlike, crying in funky staccatto patterns. This would be an amazing sample on a less serious r&b track, as easily as being incorporated into a John Cage composition, with its stark silences and animalistic ca-koos. For me, it’s the most mesmerizing work here, it both embodies a delicate intimacy and a demand for personal space. On Thunder Makers Forti & co. do just that, developing a pattern of objects in movement to form the whispers and wrath of non-formulaic weather patterns. It’s only two minutes, and I want more.

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The final tracks include the short heartfelt Dal Di Là (1972) and the epic conclusion, Night Walk (1984) which is the most recent piece here. It’s fueled with field recordings of cars zooming down wet streets and a creaky tin awning that engages Mother Nature.  It’s ominous, especially if you listen to the exhaust with some volume on your system – in fact, I’d recommend headphones for this one so you do not miss each and every squeak and rumble. It’s our urban reality, amplified and personified.

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