Review Summary: The experimental Italian composer continues with his mercurial, mind-expanding compositions.
Italian composer Valerio Tricoli amplifies sounds of mental torment and manipulates them in unexpected ways. Some similar composers craft dark-ambient-y electroacoustic soundscapes and achieve kinda-eery effects using psych-horror clichés (whispers, thuds, static, etc) that barely delve beyond the cerebral surface level; Tricoli captures everything potentially good about dark ambient / electroacoustic fusion, and renders most of his peers irrelevant. Clonic Earth
achieves a fine balance of variety and cohesion, delivering a barrage of unpredictable samples, tape manipulations, field recordings, and textures. The album thrives on uncertainty, with many moments dividing the listener’s interpretation. “Stromkirche or Terminal” is an example of trying to attach psychological irrationality to a phenomenon more natural, like maybe a thunder storm, as the chaotic thuds and crashes might encourage. It feels intentionally frustrating. Amidst the wind and rain, computer noises happily beep along their business, as though mocking the listener who is stuck ruminating in a digital playground under their surveillance.
You could spend a lot of time documenting the events of each track, only to go back and cross things out, add descriptions in the margins, erase, rewrite, and so on. Transitions within songs can be smooth and carefully layered, or abrupt and misleading, redirecting where you think the narrative is supposed to go. “Interno d’incendio” has a pieced-togetherness of sound collage, like a series of related short stories collected from Louisiana bayous, submarines, deep woods, watery arctics, and so forth, never really dwelling in any one place for very long. It’s similar to Tricoli’s 2014 effort Miseri Lares
(also on PAN records) in that it ambiguously cycles through these landscapes and keeps itself lost. This sensation carries through to repeated listens, as several playthroughs don’t make Clonic Earth
much easier to map. There’s a recurring anxiety of being misled, fuelled further by various hushed spoken-word segments that seem to brood over the listener, or audio dead-ends: periods of dead silence that drop listeners like some ghostly trapdoor, then leaves them suspended.
It’s arguable whether or not there’s a definite beginning, middle, and end to the individual tracks, or if Tricoli opts for nonlinearity. Title track “Clonic Earth” seems to wander in and out of spaces, some of which leave the long-lasting impression while others fade into the background. A soothing hymn enters at roughly the six-minute mark, as though diluting the clouded, troubled headspace, if only briefly. The song feels like a year of demonic torment condensed into one instant, stirred, then spread out to nine minutes so it’s impossible to retrace events. Closer “As for the Crack” lacks the same level of anguish, but feels like an exploration into unfinished business
, as though reflecting on a puzzle with half of its pieces missing. Despite all of the psycho-supernatural elements, Clonic Earth
strives for believability. Rarely does Tricoli exaggerate his sounds. It might serve as an escape, as many ambient pieces do, but it doesn’t seem too hellbent on physical transport, or even spiritual transport, despite having these themes present. Perhaps the most unsettling thing about Clonic Earth
is, despite being an album based on navigating one’s mental states, it never really grants closure. It pushes you to wander beside yourself, go in circles, and end up nowhere, head flooded and spirit empty.