Posted on Aug 31st 2012 01:23 am
WAVES ON CANVAS
Into The Northsea
Psychonaviation Records 2012
12 Tracks. 57mins21secs
Everything on this records, from the Vaughan Oliver-designed artwork to the music, atmosphere and contributors, is imbued with the spirit of mid-eighties 4AD, more specifically Ivo Watts-Russell’s seminal This Mortal Coil. The project of Sardinia-born and bred Stefano Guzzetti, Waves On Canvas presents an intriguing blend of ethereal art pop and electronica which, following a handful of self-released digital albums and EPs, has landed a spot on Dublin-based Psychonavigation for his full length debut.
Into The Northsea pays a reverent homage to the shaded cinematic atmospheres of This Mortal Coil, and to 4AD’s often enigmatic and beautifully crafted releases. Indeed, Guzzetti’s recent single Angel, which is included here, features a vocal contribution from Louise Rutkowski, who was present on both This Mortal Coil’s Filigree & Shadow and Blood albums and who went on to become a member of Watts-Russell’s follow up project The Hope Blister, and the track was given a complete makeover by John Fryer, who engineered and produced many of the label’s releases in the eighties and nineties. Completing the 4AD connection, the album also features contributions from former Clan Of Xymox member Pieter Nooten (Frozen) and Pale Saints’ Ian Masters (Starfish). Also contributing are vocalists Françoise Lacroix (Voix Dans Une Voix), Yvette Winkler (with Nooten on Frozen), and Irene Nonnis on the stunning In My Dream.
It would however be foolish to reduce Waves On Canvas to a simple This Mortal Coil pastiche. The clair-obscure ambiences and juxtaposition of genres certainly heavily references Watts-Russell’s project and vision, but Guzzetti brings his own touch through delicate electronic touches, rhythmic sequences and widescreen production. It often feels as if Guzzetti is simply taking advantage of the opportunity given to him of working with some of the people who have inspired him, and he returns the favour by providing them with a fitting soundtrack.
Those familiar with TMC will undoubtedly find the delicate Twenty Years a comfortable setting, and the swelling strings, sweeping melody and vocal performance on Angel or the touching piano-led Frozen or In My Dream will do nothing to dispel this feeling, but on Flowers Of The Sea, Guzzetti tempers the mood the piece by adding glitches and a stuttering beat and by progressively distorting his acoustic sound sources, a process which he repeats on Voix Dans Une Voix to rather impressive effect. Equally, Stella resonates with shimmering celestial electronics underpinned by a discreet but constant drum pulse as swirls of strings are layered in between. Later on, Guzzetti casts a delicate ambient tone on She’s Going To Leave, while other instrumental pieces A Dedication, Pure and Here And Away combine wonderfully rich string work, electronic soundscapes and micro-beats in a rather convincing fashion.
So ingrained with This Mortal Coil aesthetic is this record that it is somewhat difficult to fully appreciate exactly how Stefano Guzzetti’s vision shapes up, but regardless, Into The Northsea is a rather impressive debut, served by refined orchestrations, production and songwriting, which deserves to appreciated for just that.