At this point, you should know whether part of you is scrambling to escape or not, hiding in your little musical panic room at the back of your head, snacking on memory crumbs from your favourite albums washed down by tea and UHT milk.
If this is the case, allow me to give you some advice: drop that defence immediately. The album "Natura Morta" is written and performed by a drummer (I'm just going to assume you don't know this, whether you already do or not … makes my job easier, if nothing else). Andrea Belfi is, however, as much a composer as a drummer. And he has a background in art (having studied in Milan prior to becoming a musician foremost).
These details are unimportant in themselves, of course, insofar as actually listening to "Natura Morta" is concerned. Yes, drums are a key ingredient; yes, the tracks are composed to varying degrees; yes, references to fine art are in place. But it is the whole, the complete artefact, that ultimately matters most: and it is a rather beautiful thing.
At just 30 minutes, it may seem somewhat slight, yet this isn't the case. Falling into two distinct sets, these six tracks are wonderful invocations of creation and decay, motion and stillness.
Beginning with "Oggetti creano forme" ("Objects Create Forms", I believe), the first set sets up the processes that the album uses throughout: pulsating beds of electronic sound, rattling drums, snatches of melody, and use of noise as a musical voice. There is a feeling of endless chatter, a will to be born, a will to exist as something more, pervading the whole piece. It comes to rest only briefly, seguing into "Nel vuoto" ("In the Vacuum"), a sparse, somewhat decayed piece, like a guttering flame struggling for oxygen. The third piece of this initial set, "Roteano" ("Spin") takes that guttering flame and breathes new life into it. It gathers strength, encouraging the whole to lurch forward, and begin to run. The minute convolutions of the drums coupled with the oscillating synths make for a satisfying conclusion to the first set.
The second set begins with a reversal, "Forme creano oggetti" ("Forms create objects"). There is an initial feeling of something breathing, something sleeping, something waiting to rise. The insistent gong seems to be attempting to wake it, stir it to life. And that awakening comes, in a rush of drums and synthetic tintinnabulation. The transition to the second piece, "Su line rette" ("On straight lines") is seamless. It is as though now that the energy has been awakened, it must get down to business, and that business is a gradual evolution, a steady growth. It has a crystalline quality to it, almost symmetrical, yet it is an odd symmetry (never a fearful one, poetry fans). It conjures the most unrepetitive repetition you're ever likely to hear, recycling itself in incremental steps, yet never so that you feel it is predictable. It all leads to a crashing halt, yet it is ceaseless, despite the title of the third section: "Immobili" ("Motionless"). The organ-like synth lends an air of solemnity, but never pomposity, nor pretence of grandeur. It actually feels like taking the figurative "shuffle off this mortal coil" and making it literal: the decent into entropy has been achieved.
What is interesting (and this is especially for any of you who have that drummer-aversion thing going on) is that the album has a sustained musicality to it. There are no unnecessary descents into maelstroms of discord and bestial percussive frenzy. Instead, there is a sense of harmony, a sense of building and dismantling of form, of variation of content, accents that shift between sonic planes. These are not soundscapes in any obvious sense, but psychological spaces, beautifully sculpted abstracts, lines, curves, light and shade all undulating and flowing with a sense of grace.
While the pure craftsmanship of this album is clear, it is its innate artistry in capturing sonically the concept of still life, "Natura Morta", that makes this album so captivating.