On the second Cucina Povera album, the Finnish-born sound artist also known as Maria Rossi showcases her plaintive, richly textured, partially-fragile vocal performance. Supremely slow, lullaby-like lyrical melodies play out at a sometimes glacial pace, as calm, expansive and beautiful as Finnish snow.
But what makes this release much more interesting is the framing of that steady vocal in a decidedly variable electronic environment which, across the eight tracks, expresses a variety of dynamics ranging from complimentary calm through to sharp tension and disorientation. Opener “Salvia Salvatrix” begins with a (slightly misleading) brooding electronica build that’s rough and earthy, and this relentless distorted line aggressively competes for space in the foreground of the track. “Polyton Nurkka” runs along a slightly guitar-like distorted synth pattern that feels like an echo of post-rock, while “Jolkottelureitti” paints slowly over a rising synth arpeggio that seems to have been orphaned from some synthwave.
It’s not all drama though. The subtle layering in “Varjokuvatanssi” forms a ballad that’s pure of heart and of tone, a sorrowful stretch of a yoik tradition across a picturesque sonic landscape. The juxtaposition are sometimes odd, and not conflict-driven- such as the curious play of crashing wave sounds with 90’s Trance Europe Express-era high electronica squeaks that end up sounding like robot seagulls.
“Anarkian Kuvajainen” pulls off the notable trick of using what sounds like mobile phone interference as an element. A sound which for a generation of people means “your audio cable is unshielded and your mobile’s about to ring” is repurposed as a very loose rhythm pattern, to interesting effect.
To return to the snow metaphor, this is a musical work of art that some may find cold or empty, but which is crisp, diverse and complex when you really start diving into it.