For more than a decade and half, Another Timbre has carved out a singular place in the landscape of recorded sound, issuing a startling array of releases, bridging the fields of modern classical composition, free improvisation, and numerous forms of rigorous experimentalism. In the label’s early days, it offered particular focus to the English scene from which it sprang, issuing works by John Butcher, Max Eastley, Phil Minton, Rhodri Davies, Angharad Davies, Evan Parker, Clive Bell, and others. Even here, through the collaborative connections illuminated by those records, the imprint was already looking further afield. Before long, their catalog would come to encompass visionary efforts by artists from every corner of the globe, ranging from gestures of ambitious young voices to those by some the most iconic figures in the history of modern and experimental composition. Their latest, “Vesperi”, the debut album by the Italian composer, Marco Baldini, rests among the former. Comprising a striking series of minimal works for acoustic instruments, carried by delicate sensitivity, dancing harmonic interplay of long tones and constrained structures, it’s hard to think of a more captivating debut in recent years. Absolutely stunning and not to be missed. Once again, Another Timbre has proven themselves to a label with its ear to the ground that leads the pack.
Born in 1986 and raised in a small town in the countryside near Florence, Marco Baldini came to composing through his love of jazz and free improvisation, working within the ensemble Blutwurst, initially dedicated to graphic scored works by composers like John Cage, Christian Wolff, Morton Feldman, Cornelius Cardew, Alvin Lucier and La Monte Young, before completing their own opuses “Yoğurt” and “Anabasi”. During 2020, having been afforded a new sense of time, space, and solitude by the pandemic lockdowns that happened during that year, Baldini began to work within more structured and systematic forms. Over the period since, the body of work that led to the developments and recording of his debut solo album, “Vesperi”, slowly began to unfurl.
Comprising seven chamber works for (low) strings and marimba, “Vesperi” draws much of its inspiration from early music - Italian polyphonic compositions of the 16th and early 17th centuries - North Indian (Hindustani) classical music, and threads of contemporary and historical Minimalism. Michele Paolozzo of Esoteros states, “The pieces collected here were written with and for the evening: the textures of low strings only, with the occasional and very discreet complement of a marimba, jealously preserve the crepuscular afflatus that inspired them and magnify it in essential sound frames, devoid of any frills that might disturb their subdued and deeply absorbed chant… the continuity of the sound relies solely on the ensemble’s patient weighing of each gesture, a ritual whose composure can only reinforce the impression of being in the dimness of a narrow sacred space.”
Recorded by two ensembles - the quartet of Niccolò Curradi & Michele Lanzini on cello, and Maurizio Constantini & Amedeo Verniani on double bass (conducted by Luisa Santacesaria) and the trio of Michele Lanzini on cello, Maurizio Constantini on double bass, and Francesco Toninelli on marimba - each of “Vesperi’s” acoustic instrumental works are rooted in spare, minimal structures that slowly unfold to delineate harmonic spaces of timbral richness and natural occurring acoustic phenomena. Feeling remarkably focussed, while remaining airy and open, Baldini guides the ear through a series of moody and deeply emotive atmospheres carved from the lower end of the register, that pulse with subdued rhythms and present themselves as a free standing statement in deep sympathy within these sprawling expanses of the album’s whole.
A glacially paced statement of profoundly moving artistry and craft, in a single stroke, with “Vesperi” Marco Baldini has announced himself as an artist to watch. Absolutely stunning and impossible to recommend enough. This is contemporary minimal music at its absolute best, and a further testament to the fact that both the contemporary Italian scene and Another Timbre are continuously breaking ground.