After a history of working in groups on drone and psychadelic works, this is Gianmaria Aprile’s first solo album. It’s built from just two instruments, a guitar and a guqin (a Chinese seven-string plucked instrument), but bathed and washed with atmospheric effects. The result is expressive and very personal-sounding, but also polished.
Across eight numbered parts, we get a series of vignettes that adopt several different tones and moods, though not necessarily styles. There’s outright drone, such as that heard in Part I, and more melodic gentle pieces as heard in Part II. More prog-familiar guitar effects are audible in Part III. Part IV feels like a culmination of the first three points, a little smattering of each, but with a somewhat sinister tension underneath- a tension which is writ much larger in the slow, alien backwards reverbs of Part VI.
Although it was recorded in 2017, you would be forgiven for thinking this release had something of a covid-19 lockdown ennui about it, as it does feel staid and static at times. Each piece feels like a compact little experiment, almost born of boredom sometimes, such as with the heavy delay effect work in Part V. The Eastern ‘ethnicity’ (with apologies for the vulgarity of the word) associated with the guqin sometimes peeks through, such as in Part VII, but there’s no sense of any overt adherence to a particular musical culture here.
To be honest, I still don’t know whether the extremely abrupt end to Part VIII is a very bold move, or a technical fault with the promo bundle I was sent!
If this is the story of a walk, as it’s described to be, it’s a mildly uncomfortable walk across unfamiliar territory. It’s an unusual blend of textures, neither wholly dramatic nor wholly chilled, and that’s what makes it quite an intriguing short album.