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Arc of Passion
Eleusian Lullaby blends the natural, warm and earthy ambient compositions of Alio Die with the elegant, neo-classical voice of Martina, merging notes and silence into an expanded dreamscape. This is lullaby music like an aural caress from darkness into the light. The combination of the vocal melodies with the abstract qualities of the loops and instruments creates a suspended near-dream space, intimate and sensual at the same time.
The opening track, 'The Oniroid Sleep,' displays a foggy atmosphere where the voices wash beneath the acoustic layers of the cithara, sitar, kalimba and field recordings. On the second track, 'A Drone Song for Alienor,' the voice is clearer and more upfront with all its powerful beauty apparent creating an intense and fragile song with a neo-classical approach. The third song, 'Eleusian Lullaby,' was created as a totally free improvisation of psaltery and voice; the text is sung in a dialect of the Engadina language (Switzerland). Drones and loops were added later from the original recordings.
60 minutes of music, composed by acoustical improvisations with voice, psaltery, zither, cithara, bells, metals and field recordings. The original recordings were made in locations in the woods and in ancient medieval places then processed and layered by Alio Die at Temple Studio in 2005-2006.
Listen to this trance music in the dark and be lead to a tranquil earthly garden. Like in the best lullabies, you are caressed as you are transported to a mysterious parallel soundworld of peace and harmony.
The Eleusian Lullaby cd counts three lengthy drone pieces. The music of Alio Die is full of little acoustic details, samples, loops and constantly moving melodies or sound textures. A good eye for detail and good care has been given to it since as a whole it sounds more than the sum of it parts. On Eleusian Lullaby this specific sound is furthermore enhanced by the exotic voice of Martina Galvagni, that in a certain respect reminds of the voice from Lisa Gerrard. The effect is overall warm with the ethereal vocals from Martina perfectly fitting these long stretched dreamscapes. In ‘The Oniroid Sleep’ the sound spectrum is mostly formed by the exotic sounds of instruments such as the cithara, sitar, bells and kalimba, combined with the manipulated found sounds and the voice of Martina. In ‘A Drone Song for Alienor’ Martina’s voice has been mixed more to the front. The third piece, ‘Eleusian Lullaby’ has been completely constructed around the improvising vocals of Martina, with the use of drones and loops.
The sounds on Eleusian Lullaby sound like a lovely green palace garden in the tropical realms of India where the vibes have an intense peaceful beauty. Very pleasurable drone music to relax to.
In the first track found on Eleusian Lullaby, the hypnotic blanket of softly shifting sounds and a bell-like focal point, is a soundtrack of those ancient journeys. It is the imagined music of the spaces found in between the earth and the afterlife, never threatening, always calling. In its nearly 22 minutes of a consistent stream of sounds with the occasionally inserted vocals of Italian singer, Martina Galvagni, the comforting music reaches levels that equate to background music for some and a genuine creation of a musical sphere.
Martina Galvagni moves into a fuller role on the more religious-like worship sequence of the album, the 16-minute “A Drone Song for Alienor.” The music of Alio Die takes a more reverential sound as Martina provides chant-like vocals to accentuate the watery essence of the location that the music has created. It is as if the world has a worshipful atmosphere that follows your walk through it.
The final track, “Eleusian Lullaby” begins with the sound of wind chimes, creating the effect of a slight soothing wind. There is a greater sense of the unknown in this piece, more respectful than anything else. The vocals of Martina Galvagni begin almost immediately to instill a feel that you have arrived at a place and there are beings nearby. But, as the music is more ethereal, it never places emphasis on a created world. Instead, it lays the foundation of a dreamed world that is spiritual in every sense. The focal point bell returns as Galvagni’s vocals beautifully chants.
The music of Eleusian Lullaby is excellent looping ambient made to relieve you of a near hour of reality. Whether you put this in just as you slumber, or you provide it your full attention, you’re getting a fantastic experience with this Alio Die & Martina Galvagni soundcraft. No matter what, Eleusian Lullaby proves that music can be serious stuff.
Alio Die (aka Stefano Musso) plays psaltery, zither, kalimba, cithara, metals, sitar, drones and loops and field recordings, Galvagni contributes voice. As one might expect from the above instrumentation, this music displays an ethnic demeanor, blending Asian and Middle Eastern influences and channeling them through a distinctly modern lens. Galvagni’s rich voice lends a neo-classical air to the placid tuneage.
Softly buzzing strings share the same sonic stage with bonging bowls and pittering, almost elusive tempos. Meanwhile, nearly intangible atmospheric textures drift lazily overhead, shadowing the most distinct sounds with a lulling temperament. Environmental samples serve as grounding elements, connecting the breezy melodies with their planet of origin.
The vocals are delicate and heavenly, rising to stand in elongated formations that convey a gentle yearning. There is no lyrical content, only harmonic airs of ethereal viscosity. The peculiar union of the trembling ambiance and the droning voice creates a visionary sense of pastoral delight. Surges of density occur, but the mien remains the same: sedative and relaxing.
While mainly harmonic in definition, these compositions achieve a melodic influx with the sensual crooning of the fem vocals. With only three songs comprising this album, each piece is afforded ample time to establish a dreamy panorama and explore the territory within those invisible boundaries. Each track becomes a lullaby with adult audiences in mind.
The concept to this collaboration is seemingly simple: Alio Die’s Stefano Musso uses a colourful array of medievally-tinged instruments to lay down finely woven soundscapes of sensuous and ethereal quality, while his Italian compatriote Martina Galvagni uses them for otherwordly vocal excursions. In their essence, these three pieces are songs – recorded at the rim of the black hole, where time is starting to stretch into infinity, but the dream is still breathing.
The results are anything but banal, however. “The Oneiroid Sleep” is an unreal haze of love, held together by chains of psaltery, zither, kalimba, cithara, sitar and shruti box, all softened by a sonambul sourdine. The courtyard vision of “A Drone Song for Alienor” begins on a warm summer morning in the palace garden, but gradually looses itself in stoney hallways and echoes of its own past.
In the title piece and final chapter of these compositions, all circling the twenty-minute mark, the bright sunlight has made way for the moods of dawn, for the time of day the Portugues call madrugada: The sky is clad in a bronzen tone, the day caught somewhere between its peak and the first signs of departure.
To arrive at this purity, the duo has gone to meticulous preparations, which prove almost all of my initial remarks wrong. First off, “Eleusian Lullaby” certainly did not come falling from the sky. Stefano Musso has proven his skills of transforming the subtle sounds of metal bowls and the finely snarling strings of traditional instruments into poetic clouds of promising whispers over the course of an over 15-year long career, which has seen him appear on some of the most prestigous labels and collaborate with decorated artists.
Galvagni, meanwhile, started her career at the tender age of 14 with a performance at the “Biennale Teatro di Venezia” – back then as an actor. The beginning of their creative liason dates back to 2001 and the album “Leaves Net”.
Secondly, the concept of “Elusian Lullaby” has been pursued by Alio Die twice before. On “Apsaras”, he teamed up with experimental vocalist and dancer Amelia Cuni, which resulted in a daring experiment which the Wire dubbed “a serious attempt to make something new and expressive from within Indian art music”. “Mei-Jyu”, meanwhile, saw Musso engage in a handshake with Japanese duo Jack and Jive and a spiritual search within the cavernous halls of Zen. Instead of presenting a novelty, “Elusian Lullaby” constitutes a temporary acme performed with the self-confidence to leave out anything unnecessary.
And finally, there is nothing simple at all about this album. It is all concentration and focus, a work which “happens” in the moment, shifting with each new breath and syllable. Every track has its own and unique approach to vocals, starting as a mere ornamentation and primus inter paris on “The Oneiroid Sleep”, growing into rolling vocalises on “A Drone Song for Alienor” and solidifying in fey Latin chants in the dark finale.
Musso’s work, meanwhile, is close to being a revelation: His drones do not so much live from harmony, but from a continued rhythm, they are a patchwork quilt made up of myriads of tiny elements, which form a coherent new entity.
The dedication to each and every of these elements is audible – sometimes a single swing of the shaker will suffice, on another occasion, dreamy guitar licks loose themselves in reveries without end: It feels familar, but it turns out to be full of hidden trapdoors on closer inspection. Even if it hasn’t appeared out of nowhere, my hopes are this will be repeated in some form soon. -Tobias Fischer