Andrea Belfi: Natura Morta (Miasmah)
Andrea Belfi is a percussionist and composer exploring the grey areas between genres, styles, gestures, and sounds. Natura Morta handsomely captures this cross-section of ideas and disciplines, with its six tracks working in two groupings of three on the vinyl (and intended as halves of the whole). Taken literally, the title translates as “dead nature,” but it can also mean “still life.” There’s something ironic in considering Belfi’s sleight of hand in these amorphous pieces to be of the same masterful stroke that would characterize still life painting, if only because music is by nature a time-based (and therefore always moving) art medium. And yet much like sculpture extrudes line and shape-making into three dimensions, perhaps it’s best to consider Belfi a master in the fourth dimension as well, with these pieces reflecting all of which he’s so very capable. The patient pacing and spaciousness of “Oggetti Creano Forme” recalls the mechanical stop and go of Radian, but the comparison ends there; by the time Belfi’s shifted forms into “Nel Vuoto,” his handsome contrast of rumbling, deep low-end and metallic swaths of texture transports listeners to a different place, albeit by means of freefall. “Roteano” cashes in on the exposition of those preceding pieces, percolating with tension and yet smooth in its accessibility, making it my favorite of the bunch.
The second half echoes the first’s tension and attitude, starting off with the rolling boil of “Forme Creano Oggetti”’s muted toms and a swelling crescendo of chirping synths and continuing with the palpable tension of “Su Linee Rette.” It’s the other real highlight here for me, evolving from something that feels tenuous into something almost heroic in its shimmering, vibrating glory. It all falls apart with “Immobili,” wherein Belfi opts to deconstruct all of the layers and elements he’s already explored. The ground drops out and confused atonal drones are punctuated by more pronounced drums, lending a different sort of gravity to its closing track. It’s an impressive body of work from Belfi, showing off his ear for sound in ways that far exceed whatever expectations one might have of a percussionist. Along with Gabriel Salomon’s Soldier’s Requiem, they represent a more percussive and sprawling side of Miasmah’s repertoire that is rife with possibilities.