Matteo Vallicelli is most likely best known to most readers as the drummer for the US-based electronic / post-punk band The Soft Moon as well as a long list of Italian punk bands, but this debut solo album ‘Primo’ contains very little in the way of rhythms, or indeed percussive elements of any kind. Inspired by Vallicelli’s relocation from Rome to Berlin’s vibrant Kreutzberg district in 2013, the eleven tracks collected here were created over a three year period of experimenting with synthesisers and drum machines, often directly to tape.
In many senses the biggest touchstones for the tracks collected here are minimal wave and proggy electronics along the lines of Cluster, with many of tracks being described by Vallicelli as ‘an exercise in subtractive techno’, and reduced down a core of just a few (or often single) elements. Opening track ‘Frammenti’ sets the scene gently at first as a wash of cycling synth arpeggios drifts in like a breeze, only for filtered treatments to send the spiraling tones into a harsher register, the electronics darting beneath the speakers in disorienting layers as they gradually break up and distort.
From there, ‘Nuova Notte’ gets even more stark and foreboding, calling to mind a John Carpenter synth film score pared down to just dark wavering bass tones, icy ambient pads and howling feedback that conjures up the feel of a slow sweep over some post-apocalyptic landscape more than anything else – indeed, it’s far closer to ‘Escape From New York’ than the predictable giallo / Argento influences you might otherwise expect.
Elsewhere, ‘Giungla Elettrica’ offers up this album’s sole beat-driven track, ushering a dark-hearted stalk that suggests Miami Vice’s beachside setting turned sour and dystopian through electro 808 toms, robotically funky bass sequences and eerie synth bends that’s half Harold Faltermeyer, half Arnaud Rebotini, before ‘Michelangelo’ gets more stripped-back and streamlined, reducing itself down to just a shimmering arpeggiated pulse of increasingly labyrinthine tones and delay effects that resembles an analogue techno excursion completely stripped of its rhythmic core more than anything else. Fans of Vallicelli’s work with The Soft Moon are likely to find few traces of that band’s sound here, but no matter – ‘Primo’ is fascinating enough in it’s own right and definitely rewards repeated listening, taking its time to unfurl its deceptively simple layers.