Eraldo Bernocchi – Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It [TrackList follows] – RareNoiseRecords RNR099 73:09 [11/30/18] ****:

Who was Cy Twombly? For non-art aficionados who may not know, Twombly was an American painter, sculptor and photographer; and a contemporary of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. He also influenced younger artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel. In addition, Twombly is the inspiration for guitarist Eraldo Bernocchi’s 73-minute, 18-track ambient/electronic instrumental album, Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It, which also acts as the soundtrack to Cy Dear, director Andrea Bettinetti’s documentary on Twombly. Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It evokes Bernocchi’s previous ambient release, 2005’s Winter Garden. They are both individual statements which have psychological and emotional elements but Bernocchi’s new recording is more compelling and personal. Bernocchi says: “This work bears my signature. It’s a side of me that’s always been there. Note after note, take after take, I became part of this story. I brought my memories.Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It was issued in various formats: as a double-sided, 180-gram vinyl LP in gatefold cover; as a compact disc; and as high-quality digital download files. This review refers to the CD version.

The pieces have a thorough range which belies the production method. It might not seem like it, but 80% of the sounds heard on Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It were generated by guitars which were masked by Bernocchi through echo, delay, reverb and other digital techniques. Bernocchi explains, “I used guitars mainly as a tool and when I really wanted to ‘sing’ a theme. So, I approached the guitars like an orchestra, layering part after part, singing aloud what I was hearing in my head and heart.” Although the album title denotes a specific Twombly artwork which is reproduced on the album cover, none of the tracks were named for Twombly paintings. “The titles are related to moments in the film,” Bernocchi reveals, “to my personal experience/story, to people that were important for Cy Twombly and to words or phrases they said in the movie.” The first composition, “Meet Me Where You Know,” has an evocative setting which brings to mind other ambient-inclined performers such as Michael Brook, Mark Isham or Harold Budd. What at first appears to be a piano is a treated guitar (unless someone did not include piano in the credits), while distorted electronics and a swaying rhythm filter through the arrangement. The third cut, “From a Distance,” also features a piano-like sound, while an ambient scrim rises and develops, accentuated by electronics which emulate a choir. “From a Distance” showcases how adeptly Bernocchi maneuvers his processed tiers of sounds and effects to craft an expressive impression.

Bernocchi mentions the haunting “Like I Wasn’t There” is as an example of how he utilized sound processing to create suggestive feelings. Bernocchi declares, “This is one of the most touching pieces of the soundtrack. It’s about the whole relationship between father and son, the absence, the omnipresent art, the emptiness of rooms and palaces, the memories that slowly creep one after another until they build a story that is true, but its communication form has been shaped by time and events.”

Two numbers are dedicated to artists not connected to Twombly. The throbbing “Out in the Blue” is dedicated to photographer Sally Mann, who gained notoriety with her 1990s monograph of intimate photos, Immediate Family. However, the darkly-tinged “Out in the Blue” seems more akin to Mann’s later, manipulated landscape photography. The concluding “Near by Distance” is dedicated to Bernocchi’s friend, the trance music producer and DJ Robert Miles, who passed away in 2017. Notably, it’s the only tune which supplies a regular, rhythmic pulse. Bernocchi discloses, “The pulse just happened by chance. I liked it and I kept it. The piano theme reminded me of Robert’s melodies. I often think that I’d love to play it for him.” There is a defined simplicity to most of the material on Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It. Bernocchi deliberately edited his compositions to single notes, thematic riffs and other bits so the music would stay focused on certain responsive essentials. The result is one of the finer ambient projects of the past year and should be heard by fans of Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Budd, Tycho and similarly-slanted musicians.

Performing Artists:
Eraldo Bernocchi – guitars, treated guitars, electronics, arranger, producer, mixer

TrackList:
Meet Me Where You Know
To Make Things Float
From a Distance
White
The Silver Laugh
A Child and a Pencil
The Gold House
Like I Wasn’t There
A Letter and a Place
The Never Ending Pier
1-10” of Happiness
Swirling Colours
We Had a Good Time
A Crack in Time
The Space Between
Out in the Blue
Like I Wasn’t There (reprise)
Near by Distance

—Doug Simpson

Music samples and more information:

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