Giuseppi Ielasi makes minimalism almost feel maximal. There’s a pillowy base of synths at the bottom of the compositions on Aix, replete with heaving beats formed from calculated adjustments in volumes to create rivers of music that float along like the best Gas (or the Kompact label for that matter) ever had to offer. But above all that is this plethora of instruments and micro edits that have sounds like zippers, jaw harps, pianos and strings dropping like plinks and plunks of rain into a tin bucket. Definitely not steady enough for IDM and completely outside of dance (nor is this album anywhere near as long-winded as some of these styles can be), but like these genres, Ielasi focuses on repetitive substructures upon which to build his house of cards. And like a house of cards, each song feels fragile, carefully (very carefully) constructed with a delicate touch and laser-beam precision. There’s also the fleeting improvisational feel of jazz to be found here, especially on a cut like the album’s closer (all of the songs are untitled), which builds three distinct double-bass voices like a trio atop a swelling keyboard tone cluster, punctuated with accents and stabilized with walking lines.
The organic elements of Aix are almost stripped of their physical existences, even though these sounds come out just as you’d expect to hear them. That is, they are all distinct and 100 percent recognizable as themselves, even though they are quite clearly not themselves. Confused? Me too. This is such a difficult phenomenon to try and describe, but in a world of music where it seems like electronic musicians have attempted to organicize electronic elements to bring the music closer to the human condition, Ielasi seems less concerned with this notion. Closer to the reality is that no matter what, if you put something organic into something else electronic, it will become assimilated into a collective. In his essential document of the punks, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, Dick Hebdige wrote about the way in which the punks re-appropriated mundane objects (like a safety pin attached to a leather coat), to make a boring, familiar object into a new, violent (if not only reactionary) tool, stylizing what’s already there in the world within a unique visual language. Ielasi does this with his music too, however in the field of audio: Instruments and objects are stripped of their familiar functions to become wrapped up in a network hive of glitchy sounds and unlikely combinations, newly stylized within the mind of a brilliant composer, splattered across the blankness of silence in dim colors and nerve-tickling uneasiness. Random, yet preplanned and highly specific. None of this is to say that Ielasi wants to remove emotion from his music altogether, either. Rather, his brain (complete with dreams, imagination, love, sensuality, anger, anxiety…) seems to be simply wired this way: in tune with finding new ways to incorporate and re-evaluate an instrument’s material existence within the language of digital manipulations to express himself. The results come together to form an exciting turn in the world of electroacoustic music, one where the possibilities of sound feel more unlocked than they ever have. Absolutely, I’d love it if the world of ambient/experimental music should go in this direction for a while… but seriously, what could possibly be next? With Aix, Ielasi firmly cements his place at this genre’s apex. It’s a peak in the prismatic possibilities any instrument (or thing) can offer a set of ears… a real breakthrough.