We use cookies on our website to provide you with the best experience. Most of these are essential and already present.
We do require your explicit consent to save your cart and browsing history between visits. Read about cookies we use here.
Your cart and preferences will not be saved if you leave the site.

Castel Sotterra 3 & 4

After a two year wait - building on the back of their two previous LPs by Omega Mai and Giovanni Di Domenico - the relatively new Holidays Records subimprint, Castel Sotterra, returns with two new deep dives into the archives of sessions recorded at Outside Inside Studio in the Montello hills in northern Italy, “Bordin / Di Domenico / Marogna” by the trio of Matt Bordin, Giovanni Di Domenico, and Riccardo Marogna, and “Smiles” by experimental psyche journeymen Jackie-O Motherf***er. Recorded in 2021 and 2014 respectively, each is a mind-expanding exploration at the outer edges of free improvision, that locks the ear into rhapsodies of immersive and intoxicating sounds that can't be shaken once heard.

Since their founding during the early years of the new millennium, the Italian imprint, Holidays Records, has stood at the vanguard of forward-thinking sound, building a carefully curated catalog of release that collectively build context and conversation across numerous avenues of exploration - placing the contemporary and historical side by side - within the wider field of experimental and improvised music. 

Back in late 2021, Holidays pushed ever further into this venerable ground with the launch of their latest venture, Castel Sotterra, in collaboration with Matt Bordin from Squadra Omega and Outside Inside Studio. Working from an archive of live, free improvised sessions recorded at Outside Inside Studio, located in the Montello hills in northern Italy, the imprint’s first two releases, Omega Mai’s “Omega Mai” and Giovanni Di Domenico’s “Nero Assoluto”, totally blew us away and left us hanging on baited breath. Now, two years down the road, we’re thrilled to witness Castel Sotterra’s return with two more killer drops, a self-titled LP from the trio of Matt Bordin, Giovanni Di Domenico, and Riccardo Marogna - “Bordin / Di Domenico / Marogna” - recorded in 2021, and a stunning body of recordings by experimental psyche journeymen, Jackie-O Motherf***er, entitled “Smiles”, laid to tape back in 2014. Each blistering, beautiful, and boundary pushing in their own distinct ways, once again Castel Sotterra has unleashed some seriously good recordings - issued in highly limited editions on vinyl - that further illuminate the diverse efforts, emerging from various corners of the globe, within the contemporary landscape of experimental music.

In the midst of a remarkably prolific run, Giovanni Di Domenico needs little introduction to Soundohm’s readers. We’ve written about him again and again. Over the last two decades, the Italian, Brussels based composer has carved a deep path through a diverse number of discrete fields within experimental music - bridging improvised music and advanced forms of electroacoustic music - while working in various ensembles - Abschattungen, AufHeben, Bonjintan, Cement Shoes, Delivery Health, etc - as well as producing a discography of critically heralded solo efforts, and intimate collaborations with Jim O'Rourke, Tatsuhisa Yamamoto, Akira Sakata, Arve Henriksen, Alexandra Grima, Nate Wooley, Chris Corsano, and others.

Matt Bordin
, Giovanni Di Domenico, Riccardo Marogna: “Bordin / Di Domenico / Marogna” (LP)

Matt Bordin, other than running Outside Inside Studio, where he recorded, mixed and mastered hundreds of albums, is a former member of Squadra Omega, an Italian collective of musicians devoted to free improvisation and psychedelic jams, who employ an open line-up change on to nearly everything they produce (so far 9 full lengths and a handful of EPs for labels like Holidays, Soave, and Macina Dischi). Riccardo Marogna works with electronics, wind instruments, programming, improvisation, and fixed media. His music has been published by CleanFeed, Superpang, A New Wave of Jazz, El Gallo Rojo Records, Setola di Maiale, AUT Records.

Bordin / Di Domenico / Marogna” was recorded on September 6, 2021 at Outside Inside Studio, Volpago del Montello. Encountering Giovanni Di Domenico playing electric and acoustic piano, electronics, and percussion; Riccardo Marogna playing tenor saxophone, clarinet, live electronics, and percussion; and Matt Bordin on tape loops, synth, electronics, lap steel guitar, soprano sax, and percussions, the album is a thrilling excursion in contemporary improvisation that falls slightly outside of the aesthetic perimeters associated with that term.

Comprising two side-long tracks, the album begins at a masked distance from where it eventually arrives, unspooling dreamy ambient expanses that are slowly infiltrated by rattling percussion, bent synth lines, and textural electronics, before being blissfully guided into narcotic realms by droning reeds and punctuations of tone and culminating as an unexpected middle-ground between new age and free improv.

The second side, occupied with a similarly untitled work, utilizes roughly the same sonorous sources as its predecessor, but departs into markedly more atonal and explicitly experimental realms. Constructed upon a bedrock of shifting drones, the trio pushes hard before breaking down into states of distant abstraction under the guidance of Di Domenico’s deconstructed piano lines and a heady mix of processes that dances amidst pulsing textures and fragments of tone.

Jackie-O Motherfucker "Smiles" LP

Founded in Portland, Oregon in 1994, and coming to prominence during that later half of the decade and first part of the 2000s within a new outgrowth of American experimentalists like Tower Recordings, Charalambides, No Neck Blues Band, Six Organs of Admittance, Pelt, Hall of Fame, and others, Jackie-O Motherf***er began as the duo of the multi-instrumentalist Tom Greenwood and saxophonist Nester Bucket. For nearly thirty years the group - drawing upon everything from free improvisation and numerous folk idioms, to field recordings, psychedelia, drone, and noise - has remained a shapeshifting force in the underground scene, taking on and shedding more than forty members and collaborators over those years, largely under the guidance of Greenwood at the helm.

Recorded live on April 28, 2014 at Outside Inside Studio, Montebelluna, “Smiles” encounters Jackie-O Motherf***er working with the line-up of Alan Zignoto on bass; Dave Easlick on drums; Tom Greenwood on guitar and vocals; Jeffrey Alexander on synth and chalumeau; Michael Whittaker on saxophone, flute, and trombone; and Dave Siebert on violin and lap steel guitar. Originally released as a small and now virtually unobtainable cassette edition in 2015 by Pome Pome Tones, Castel Sotterra’s first ever vinyl pressing - issuing even more of those session than the original release across a double LP - is incredibly welcome, making these stellar recordings accessible for the first time in years, and some for the first time ever.

Possibly drawing on the sessions a more accurate way, Castel Sotterra’s edition of “Smiles” progresses in roughly the same way as the cassette before breaking off midway through what was the tape’s second side - the sidelong piece “The Corner” - and splicing in a previously unreleased piece as the vinyl edition’s third side, before concluding with the second half of the the tape’s “The Corner”. As such, we encounter a great deal more breadth and range that the band is capable of. Beginning with the side-long piece “La Cosa” the band embarks into their signature territory of droning folk infused free improvisation, writhing and twisting towards ecstatic highs and restrained minimal moments, painting an alternate image of the Third Ear Band on very different drugs.

The album’s second side departs into markedly more aggressive and electrified territory, bleeding hard psyche with elements of free jazz and drone, and as such flirting with aesthetics bands like Parson Sound, pushed toward outer space. The album’s third piece returns to a softer and more gentle palette, spinning its rambling excursions from a spine of loose acoustic guitar before slowly moving toward states of hypnotic obstruction with expanded instrumentation and drifting sax lines, before concluding on the fourth and final side which seethes with drivingly repetitive krautrock infused rock and roll.

Recorded in roughly the same moment and using the same line up as 2014’s “House of Rain”, across the entire length of “Smiles” further unlocks Jackie-O Motherf***er at one of the band’s great creative highpoints and reminds us of what a force they are. Truly amazing sounds from the depths of the American underground, captured in Italy during the Spring of 2014, it’s just about as killer and intoxicating as music comes. Absolutely fantastic and as recommended as they come, “Smiles” is issued by Castel Sotterra as a newly expanded and definitive very limited double vinyl edition, and is also available bundled with “Bordin / Di Domenico / Marogna”,