Although initial impressions lean towards a GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR type of post-rock, Italian band SPARKLE IN GREY takes in a wide range of sound in their music. Post-rock may indeed be the best way to describe this Milan-based ensemble, but there is a greater focus on texture and ambiance than one would expect from a typical band of the style. The result of this collision of noise ambient, and psychedelic noodling is a mark of excellence I have not often given to my new discoveries of recent months.
Like the old Spaghetti Western films, these Italians recreate the romantic frontier-feel one might associate with Mexico. The album ‘Mexico’ does not feel like a concept work perse, but there is a running string of motifs that conjure imagery not unlike that of the album’s artwork. SPARKLE IN GREY get these mental images across through a blend of post-rock, mixed with horns and violins. ‘Boys Vomit’ opens up the album on this mark, never quite latching onto a melody, yet captivating one’s attention with its vast sense of texture. The mood is dreamlike and cinematic; something that remains constant throughout the rest of the album. By the end of ‘Boys Vomit’, SPARKLE IN GREY introduce another element of their style that will gain momentum in songs to come; electronic and noise music. Although it is never jarring, there is a benign use of gruff buzzing in order to give the soundscape an even wider scope. In the face of what is otherwise a very harmonious sound, this only works part of the time, but never significantly takes away from the sonic beauty SPARKLE IN GREY bring forth on this record.
From the murky ambiance of ‘Sunrising’ and PORCUPINE TREE-esque build-up of ‘Dimissioni’, SPARKLE IN GREY reinvent themselves slightly with every track, and though none of the songs ever truly leap at the listener as the ‘best’, the sense of monotony I often get from listening to ambient albums is in absentia. One song that may be my least favourite however is ‘From The Air’; a piece that distinguishes itself from having vocals. Spoken word vocals are used here; Deborah Arnold calmly speaks in airliner-cliche, eventually getting a little absurd with it (“this is your captain speaking… put your hands on your head, put your hands on your hips…”). By the end of this short track, there is a vocal melody that sounds oddly enough like something Lady Gaga might sing. It’s not a terrible track, but it does take away from what is otherwise a stunning piece of otherworldly ambiance.
I am not always big into this type of music, thinking it often to be rather listless and even lazy from a compositional regard. SPARKLE IN GREY may pass some listeners as just that, but the adventurous steps they take with fleshing out their sound is intense and exciting. An excellent album!
1. Boys Vomit
2. That One
3. From The Air
7. Phennel Song
* Matteo Uggeri – Electronics and effects
* Agostino Brambilla – bass (track 1)
* Simone Riva – drums (tracks 2,3,6)
* Lucija Krostopovic – piano (track 5)
* Deborah Arnold – Vocal (tracks 3)
* Cristiano Lupo – Many instruments
* Alberto Carozzi – Guitar and bass
* Franz Krostopovic – Violin