Italian label Oltrarno Recordings have released the very first solo album from uber-collaborator Massimo Farjon Pupillo. Best known for his work with ZU, Pupillo has performed with a wide spectrum of innovators and avant-garde experimentalists ranging from Lasse Marhaug to Oren Ambarchi, Mats Gustafsson to Tony Bucks of the Necks, Damo Suzuki to FM Einheit of Einstürzende Neubauten. Across a discography stretching back near two decades, Pupillo has been hard to tag with a genre label.
The result here, as on ZU’s glorious 2017 LP Jhator, is a music that will draw from numerous sources of inspiration – free jazz, electronica, drone, metal – so long as it serves the overall vision. Sometimes solo recordings can feel too orderly, too structured, as a single mind simply piles up elements in a linear fashion – sound as Lego bricks rather than humanity and interaction. Perhaps it’s a benefit of having spent so much time feeling his way forward in improvisational settings, but Pupillo seems blessed with an ear for coherence across extended space while having retained the ability to surprise and to create drama.
Released as an accompanying video, Pupillo’s take on the traditional All The Pretty Little Horses calls to mind the work of Coil (who covered the song on 2004’s Black Antlers). Glitchy electronica flickers above a burbling bassline, the organic quality of the sound matching the bucolic vision of the lyrics. The songs hovers in a disquieting space between lullaby and foreshadowing of loss, the comforting words of the core refrain butting against the image of the lost or abandoned lamb in the middle verse, twists of static detonating soft pools in the background against a twinkling organ. Sara Picco’s video treatment creates an appropriate terrain of fleeting nature, shivering wild flowers, and absent expanses with the barest hint of human presence.
The heart of the album is occupied by two vast soundscapes. The dramatically named The Great Archetypical Figure Nested Inside the Catastrophe of Your Life echoes like Rhys Chatham’s minimalist composition Two Gongs, then wraps that circling core in a mix of gradually building details, glancing impacts that set the composition ricocheting off its axis in new directions. On the flipside, It’s Like a Mustard Seed But When It Falls Becomes a Shelter For All the Birds in the Sky starts in chaos and discord before morphing, folding over and over into surging clouds carrying a prayer to the heavens.