Eraldo Bernocchi and Prakash Sontakke – Invisible Tracks – RareNoise

An international summit meeting between two progressive guitarists.

Eraldo Bernocchi and Prakash Sontakke – Invisible Tracks [TrackList follows] – RareNoise RNR069, 48:44 [11/18/16] ****:

(Eraldo Bernocchi – baritone guitar, electric guitar, electronics & producer; Prakash Sontakke – lap steel guitar)

Those who think they know the RareNoise label may not know as much as they think. The imprint—started in 2008 by two Italians and based in London—is typified by brash and noisy offerings by acts such as Brainkiller, Metallic Taste of Blood and Slobber Pup, and the label’s releases often include cross-genre music such as free jazz, electroacoustic music and avant rock. RareNoise cofounder Eraldo Bernocchi delivers a new dimension to his label with the 48-minute Invisible Tracks, his collaborative effort with Indian lap steel guitarist Prakash Sontakke. The nine pieces (which run approximately five to six minutes in length) present an ambient/electro excursion which balances Sontakke’s Indian-inflected guitar with Bernocchi’s baritone guitar, electric guitar, and electronics. Much of Bernocchi’s contributions were added in post-production. The result is somewhat akin to Michael Brook blended with modern Brian Eno: digital beats, pulsating electrical noises and sparse percussive effects riding along with reverb-laced guitar. Bernocchi admits a crucial inspiration for Invisible Tracks was Eno’s 1983 Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, which melded Eno’s dark ambient textures with Daniel Lanois’ manipulated guitar.

Every tune on Invisible Tracks has an individual identity, but the whole record has an overall mood and tone which holds together as an outline, blueprint and/or characteristic. Some cuts, such as the opening “The Last Emperor Walked Alone,” carve out a groove-laden background with sonic loops generated from pads, drones, or keys coming from Bernocchi’s guitars, while the production is persuasively electronic, Bernocchi refrains from dancefloor patterns. While Sontakke’s ethereal lap steel guitar forms a grounded impression, Bernocchi layers in sometimes contrasting grooves, beats and guitar parts, with deep bass sounds reverberating throughout. The ether-enriched “Will You Stay,” on the other hand, is more evocative. Sontakke’s lap steel cross-merges Indian raga-like notes with a tonal quality reminiscent of how lap steel is frequently used in American country music. There are moments when electrified hum and light digital distortion supply a covert support, and other times when Sontakke takes solo flight, unencumbered by digital accompaniments. There is affecting beauty on some pieces such as “The Invisible Ferry,” where Bernocchi’s specially-built baritone guitar (which has an aluminum neck and a wood body) builds sustain against Sontakke’s ringing lap steel guitar. Their sensitive interplay belies the fact the two were not in the same studio at the same time, but rather collaborated via audio files sent back and forth. Another transcendent creation is the lovely “Sublime Skies,” a soundscape with excellent melodic and harmonic weaving, a musical dialogue which could easily find itself used in a nature or science documentary.

The groove is replete and phased up on the lengthiest number, “Bangalor Electric,” where Bernocchi supplements Sontakke’s snaky lap steel with slippery electric bits: beats, jazzy bass lines, and digital drums and percussion. Again, this isn’t meant for the dance floor, but “Bangalor Electric” wouldn’t be out of place in a cocktail bar with a younger crowd. Invisible Tracks concludes with the quietly interpolative “The Unsaid,” the album’s most tranquil tune, dripping with reverb, echo and gentle, gossamer guitar notes. There’s a bluesy undertow and the arrangement emphasizes the two guitarists, with minimal electronic underscoring: just hints of keyboard-esque effects and an elegant aura of electronics.

TrackList: The Last Emperor Walked Alone; Will You Stay; From Star to Star; The Invisible Ferry; Sublime Skies; Bangalor Electric; Purple Yellow; Walking Backward Again; The Unsaid

—Doug Simpson

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