Giorgio Dursi – Polimorphonia (2016)
In an era that sees countless albums issued weekly, one of the greatest challenges is staying abreast. Between what I know I want to write about, new discoveries, and emails from labels and artists, it’s impossible to keep up and listen to everything. Given what I’m trying to achieve with The Hum – attempting to draw attention to the brave and exciting efforts of artists, labels, and shops that deserve more for their risks, the last thing I want it is to neglect new figures in our world. It’s a sin I have committed far too often, and hope to rectify over time.
A week ago I received an email from a Berlin based artist named Giorgio Dursi regarding his debut cassette on Das Andere Selbst. He seemed like a nice guy, and to both of our good fortunes, I found myself with a rare moment to take a gamble on his files. As sounds began drifting from the speakers, I was immediately captivated. For years I’ve been grumbling under my breath about what feels to be an increasing homogeneity and lack of ambition spreading from within the Experimental Music world – implying that this world is challenging enough, that we need not raise the bar and further risk isolating audiences. It’s a default I fiercely oppose. The thought that our predecessors tabled more risk, pursued their work with more ambition, and made greater leaps, is unacceptable – particularly when most of them labored in a dark obscurity which the internet has erased. This blog has more regular readers than La Monte Young had fans during the 60’s and 70’s. As absurd as that may be, it serves as an apt illustration of shifting contexts and circumstances – particularly given the risks Young and his contemporaries were willing to take, in the face of furthering their obscurity. We should all be willing to fall. Experimental music is not entertainment. It is the realm of sonic exploration that sets out to risk, challenge and displace, helping us grow and learn, ultimately pushing all realms of music forward. This is something that Giorgio Dursi’s tape grasps immediately.
One of my issues with certain threads of contemporary “Experimental” music is the overuse of processing and a reliance on a sonic pallet that signifies experiment, rather than being it – effectively spoon-feeding listeners what they already know and expect. Wanting to be confronted and fucked with, I love unmediated acoustics and sonorities. I would rather be allowed to explore sound for its surprises, unique character, and relationships, rather than encounter it processed, and drenched in effects, intending to satiate the expectations of an unambitious audience. A composition should be just that – composed, brave and articulate (even when the sounds avoid dynamics or are improvised), not a series of notes spread together by a plugin like warm butter in a pleasing haze. These dispositions are part of the reason I responded so strongly to Dursi’s Polimorphonia. The album displays none of the trappings we encounter so often. It’s sounds are unprocessed, raw, and filled with naked risk, relying on careful composition and acoustic relationships to construct its whole.
The album’s pallet draws from three sources – voice, non-instrumental acoustic noises, and synthesizer. Three realms that don’t find easy comfort with each other. The work feels like Dursi recorded his sounds separately, chopped them up, and composed from the fragments as though they were notes on a piano. The effect is striking – at times seeming like it grew from the most ambitious artifacts of the Cramps catalog, including figures like Demetrio Stratos and Walter Marchetti, or a slightly more austere and musical occupancy of the territory established by Groupe de Recherches Musicales (which also exposes some of my tastes and preferences). There are two things about Polimorphonia that really stand out. The use of voice (which is rare, especially as he approaches it), and its open and exposed compositional approach. Each note feels carefully placed, while venturing out on a limb and risking everything. His voice feels unfamiliar and dislocated, yet remains intimately familiar to us all (to reference Joan La Barbara) as the original instrument – something that Dursi seems to have held close to his mind when building the work. The non-instrumental sounds, forcing their way in, shape a metaphor for our relationship to the broad world of sound in which we find ourselves. The notes and sonorities rub against each other, confront and flee. They feel honest, primal, and ambitious in arrangement. Though the album has strong connections to the ambitious efforts of our predecessors, it bravely steps forward, and in many ways resembles what I’ve been waiting to hear from an emerging artist for many years. It leaves me feeling excited for what will come next in Dursi’s hands, as well as for the future as a whole. You can listen below and get it from Das Andere Selbst’s bandcamp page. I highly recommend that you do.