An Italian music label makes a premiere with two records of experimental music. One is a dramatic showcase of string musicians playing dangerously, another—an immersive easy listening experience
WHAT’S GOING ON: Torto Editions is a new music label from Italy, which is run by Tommaso Rolando, a multi-instrumentalist from Genoa, and Paolo Bonfiglio, a self-taught artist and filmmaker who lives between Genoa and Paris. Both used to joining forces with other artists and seeking to bring the various art forms closer together, they started Torto with a collaboration between Jean René, a Quebecois avant-garde viola player, and Rolando himself, playing the contrabass. “Do. So” is the first album by the thus formed duet, RolandoRené, and its cover is a work by the British artist Paul Goodwin, who brought the two together. Torto’s second release is “TRÓNCO” by the eponymous ensemble, which also features Rolando, and a bunch of musicians, some of whom had already collaborated with him on various other projects, Davide Cedolin, Alessandro Bacher, Aleph Viola and Tito Ghiglione, who doubled as the artistic force behind the visual components of the album.
WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE: Even though Rolando is the force that unites the two, these albums present two different approaches to avant-garde music. Perhaps this is due to René’s classical background and work as a conductor that “Do. So” is more academic, structured: but at the same time, it also is the wilder, more dramatic of the two. While the viola and the bass are not in competition with each other, the way they work together on the album is like a maddening series of dancing duels. The music comes along in a tornado and challenges the listener at every turn, creating precarious leaps and peaks out of the sounds’ fabric. Unlike this severe pairing of just two instruments, “TRÓNCO” is a multi-instrumental effort, and it’s more of an intimate, relaxed jam session than a performative collaboration. The way layers of sound are juxtaposed to create a sealed environment translates into carefully arranged organic ambient easy listening. It’s music that makes you happy and is light but energetic, a fresh reminder that experimental music can be pretty uplifting
WHY DO WE CARE: We love indie labels, and tend to get the majority of the music we review from them. And to be able to witness the birth of one, and therefore to see the releases evolve, change, as the label grows, is a rare delight. The people of Torto Editions are tight with Širom, the Slovenian experimentalists, we had previously reviewed. But while close through defiance of convention and the way their imaginations roam free, these two releases are drastically different from the folk-heavy “I Can Be a Clay Snapper.” Neither “Do. So”, nor “TRÓNCO” are rooted in any folkloric conventions. Instead, they create their own mythologies from scratch, and these soundscapes are marvelous fun to explore. Whether it’s the feverish phantasmagoria of a romance between bass and viola in “Do. So” or an exploration of space through its musical signals in “TRÓNCO,” Torto Editions’s releases fill up a room, fill up your head, and have the inimitable qualities of putting the listener right there on the floor with the musicians, surrounded by breath, movement and stroke.
WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN: “Do. So” is an album of foreboding beauty. It starts with the strings on the verge of a nervous breakdown and never quite settles with the intensity. At times it’s dark and grim, at times light and flirtatious, and the journey of listening to Rolando and René is full of kinetic precariousness. The strings are well handled, but right by the precipice, and so the fingers dancing on them are always in the balance as if belligerent ballerinas and industrial window washers are all taunting, revving against each other, falling off a cliff, getting resurrected, and oscillating between urgency and tremors. Even though there are only the instruments that create the sounds, at one point, something else gets evoked: seesaws, knives, razors, crackling fires. It’s powerful music that does not ever let go and sizzles till the very end. A true testament to the power of string instruments that, to this day, remain the most effective method of communicating human emotions.
Meanwhile, “TRÓNCO” is a veritable journey into space that turns out to be more familiar than expected. As if space invaders, summoned by the analog stylings and the vintage organ, abduct you and tenderly invite to explore their approximation of human reality. The entry is through a space saloon, but then the edges between reality and imagination blur, and the music fills up the many rooms of a residential building that may or may not be adjacent to where you are in time and space. The goal behind “TRÓNCO” is simplicity, achieved through inventive but uncomplicated musical textures, which fill in the space in diaphanous clouds and let the real-life shine through the cracks. The exploration of the album becomes an immersive experience of peeking into each room of the house, finding out what all the characters are up to, even though we’re never entirely sure. Behind each door, there is a surprise, like amorphous singing, or perhaps an explosion of Middle Eastern influence. And we think that it’s safe to say that we can expect something similar from Torto Editions’ subsequent releases. Wild revelations, unexpected turns, and much imaginative strength.
For more content like this sign up for our weekly newsletter