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3/4hadbeeneliminated
stefano pilia, claudio rocchetti, valerio tricoli
Dazzling sonic creations in a dzzying blend of genres from an Italian trio that’s shaking up the avant music scene
BY DANIELA CASCELLA on MUSIC WORKS
Many doorways open onto the kaleidoscopic world of 3/4HadBeenEliminated, an improvisation trio formed in 2002 in Bologna, Italy, by guitarist Stefano Pilia, turntablist Claudio Rocchetti, and sound recordist Valerio Tricoli. A listener could enter the group’s world softly, led by melancholic tracks that reverberate with reverie, or be abruptly thrust in by a whirl of merciless beats, access it through a translucent screen of distorted sound geometries, or be seduced by sliding textures that gradually turn into sculptural structures caressed by ecstatic tunes. 3/4HadBeenEliminated is one of the most original bands on the Italian experimental and improvised music scene today. The band members share an interest in the dynamics of sound in space and in the relationship between sound and memory, plus the sheer pleasure of playing together, which is the emotional motor of the band.
What strikes me most about the band’s two recordings to date is the variety of sound practices, instruments, and sound generating devices—which result in restless, vibrant creations. 3/4HadBeenEliminated pushes the limits of unlikely sonic combinations and finds new solutions through them. Spanning the undefined space between improvisation, sophisticated sound assemblage, psychedelia, drone music, and avant rock, the band seamlessly investigates abstraction and the body, the ethereal and the factual. Over the last few years, each band member (all of them are in their late twenties) has been developing a personal approach to sound through a number of solo projects.
stefano pilia: memories and scattering times
The youngest of the lot, guitarist Stefano Pilia, has been veering more and more toward the investigation of nuanced drones, thus entering a long tradition of spatial exploration of sound. Pilia recounts an episode from his childhood concerning his early perception of sound: “My grandfather was a carpenter and lived in the countryside. In his workshop he kept many machines to cut and plane wood. On summer afternoons, I would sit outside while he worked, mesmerized by the sounds of those machines. In the meantime I would look at the sun, the fields, the lines of ants on the wall. When suddenly the machines were turned off, everything all around appeared renewed.”
This experience relates to what Max Neuhaus would define as an aural afterimage, a strong signal caused by a sudden interruption in a sound continuum. Aural afterimage is a term used by Neuhaus in relation to his Moment Pieces, artworks which take the form of communal sound signals. The driving concept of these works is to frame the sound signal with silence rather than with sound. Instead of a bell suddenly clanging and the sound gradually dying away, the sound is introduced gradually, beginning inaudibly and growing slowly over a period of minutes until, at its height, it suddenly disappears. The long subtle emergence of the sound causes it to go unnoticed. It becomes apparent only at the instant of its disappearance. In this silent moment, for a few seconds after the sound has gone, a subtle transparent aural afterimage is superimposed on the everyday sounds of the environment, a spontaneous aural memory or reconstruction perhaps, shared by all who notice it, and engendered by the sound’s disappearance.
For Pilia, the youthful experience of this phenomenon marked the beginning of a process of recognizing the acoustic complexity that forms the soundscape. The seeming opposition between played music and external sounds—the sounds of nature or of machines, for instance—is resolved in the fullness of the act of listening. “While I play,” he states, “everything seems to develop very naturally; it is a subtle balance between action and listening: they become the same, one inside the other. When this happens I get a strong feeling of freedom. It was very important for me to realize that the most fascinating aspect of sound is to be able to listen.”
Pilia’s solo CDs to date, his 2003 releases Healing Memories And Other Scattering Times, on Last Visible Dog, and The I Season, on Time Lag, employ a palette of delicate hues and soft tones. Healing Memories was recorded live in a very short period, and consists of a range of introspective guitar arpeggios. “The tracks found their structure through the act of playing. I worked on resonances and on the interplay of harmonies and melodies. In certain ways of suspending melody, I felt an evocative power that fascinated me and that could be amplified by highlighting the drone aspect of sound.” More complex and accomplished, The I Season is developed around a core of basic guitar sounds enhanced by tape noise, feedback, the sound of rain, wind, double bass, and cymbals. In contrast with the exploration of melodic structures in Healing Memories, it freezes most dynamics, to focus on the very body of sound and on the way it expands in space. “I worked mainly on various tunings, trying to let the instrument resonate. The attempt at gaining a sound dimension whose centre is the listener is much stronger here.” The overall impression is of a hovering sonic presence that shapes space and breathes within it.         In light of this latter focus, it is no wonder that Pilia recently began approaching space-related issues more directly through installation work. Anything About You? is an installation piece shown at the Talk Show exhibition in 2003 at the University of Venice, and re-enacted on a larger scale in September of 2005 at AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island. The sounds captured by a number of microphones in and around the exhibition space are transmitted through small piezoelectric transducers placed on various objects arranged within the space, providing additional vibrations to the amplified sounds. Pilia searches for the pauses between intentionally produced sounds to give relevance to the acoustic elements that constitute the environment. His note for the installation states that “There is a subtle and unfathomable relationship between sound, space, and the body that also focuses on being in one place in one moment. This installation is an attempt at marking this. The question in the title addresses you as an active sound source, but also addresses the mystery of your being.”
claudio rocchetti: inside the body of sound
If Pilia’s guitar soundscapes dissolve into space, the work of Claudio Rocchetti is a deep plunge into thick sound, investigating its innermost workings. Using a variety of devices such as turntables, audio cassettes, samplers, radios, and microphones, often incorporating other objects and traditional instruments, Berlin-based Rocchetti builds compelling structures that employ sound as sheer matter, mass, and impact. “I have a very direct approach to sound, trying to act on instruments and devices,” he says.
The tarry, mesmerizing hues that characterize his “music objects” are grounded in layers of sound detritus, as in his 2003 solo albums, The Work Called Kitano, on Bar La Muerte, and But Speak Fair Words, on S’Agita. The pieces on these CDs are never self-contained: they function as open plateaux on which various solutions coexist as part of a sound continuum that stretches in time. “I proceed by hints—I love the unfinished. This doesn’t mean that my music is aphoristic: I try to reach the essential by summing up all the visions I get. Segments from the past appear and want to be recorded. My background mixes up. That’s why I face various elements within one piece.” Burned, for example, a piece from Kitano, employs a sample from a Mendelssohn-Bartholdy vinyl, rotated by hand, against small percussive effects and abstract noises from skipping CDs, overlapped by piercing rhythms. The impression is of witnessing the intersection of timeless samples in the fraction of time available on the recording; yet these are part of a larger sound whole, greater than the recording. Rocchetti’s focus is never on frenzied sound collage per se: he lingers on every sample and lets it breathe, so that it opens up and resonates with memories and less obvious structural implications. “I choose certain samples because I am fascinated by them. They have to strike me with qualities that go far beyond what can be measured by frequency or spectre. I am interested in melancholy and the relationship between an environment and its history, either as living memory or as reverberations of a presence.”
For Rocchetti, any recollection from the past is re-enacted in and through the factuality of the record as object: “Each sample is always played by hand; I never let the vinyl record spin by itself. Most times I use turntables as percussion instruments: I stop the records with Sellotape, and use the needles as small microphones. I play the surface of records using sticks, leaves, sand, and paper. Other times, I use records without a groove. Memory, be it absent or denied, is the main glue between all these elements.” From techno rhythms to slow melodies, edgy constructions to samples of choirs and strings, Rocchetti builds layered structures of elusive elements whose sources are often hidden, and enacts a mirror play which may cause dizziness.
His interest in the cinema from the Far East hints at another dimension of his complex compositions. Take as an example director Wong Kar Wai and the way that he employs gestures to set up an environment but not necessarily an action: time in his films is expanded. This is what Rocchetti does with sound, setting up an atmosphere that may apparently be uneventful, but in which what is hidden behind the scenes can be as relevant as what is on the surface.
valerio tricoli: sound perspectives
“My mind revolves around the idea of the invisible limit between inside and outside, between myself and the cosmos. It is invisible but it’s there: the surface of the eyes that is the mirror of the soul and of the world.” These words of Valerio Tricoli introduce his sophisticated approach to the distribution of sound and his ability to shape space and play with distances and proportions, creating daring constructions that cause a stir in the listener from continual shifts of perspective.
Tricoli’s fine recording skills are not only employed in 3/4HadBeenEliminated but also in many other projects, such as his post-production work on Dean Roberts’ Be Mine Tonight. (Together, they also form Autistic Daughters with Werner Dafeldecker and Martin Brandlmayr). Tricoli joins a mastery in sound arrangement with daring intuitions that eschew any rational understanding. All this—plus a penchant for capturing unexpected twists in sound as objet trouvé—sets the ground for his solo 2002 album Did They? Did I? on Bowindo. One could speak of this record not as a work about changes of perspective but a work inside changes of perspective. The album has an unusual structure: its duration as printed on the sleeve is 19′19″, yet the actual recorded track stretches to 41′06″—the later, unacknowledged section seems to cast a shadow upon the former.
The way that Tricoli deals with sound is based on the investigation of several degrees of distance or proximity, gained through a skilful use of volumes, an attention toward microstructures and an openness to unexpected events that occur while listening and recording. While the first part of his album appears to be overpowering (note the continuous roaring sounds that envelop minimal, tiny metal resonances; and the feedback interspersed with minutely arranged clicks and chiming sounds), the second half is a field recording in which every apparently familiar sound (doors closing, voices, noises from everyday activities) seems distant and disturbing.
Spanning the gap between absolute distance and a closeness that borders on infiltration, Did They? Did I? is almost a sonic embodiment of the question asked by T. S. Eliot (an author Tricoli mentions as one of his favourites) in The Waste Land: “But who’s that on the other side of you?” This serves as a meditation on the other side as a continuum and investigates moments of concurrent detachment and familiarity with oneself and the world—when closeness and unity can mean understanding but also infiltration, being near but not crossing the border, or violating it.
Ultimately, Tricoli sees his work as an exercise in discipline, intended as “an urge of constant confrontation with myself—and this confrontation wounds. At times I realize that I don’t know fulfilment, that I can never entirely set myself free. I make music because I need to manifest this helplessness, which is part of being human.”
3/4 had been eliminated
Stefano Pilia says of 3/4HadBeenEliminated: “The solo work of each of us stems from different grounds, but this doesn’t mean that we cannot find a shared language. The way we use our instruments proves it. A strong sense of multi-dimensionality pervades our music.” Given the musicians’ backgrounds, it is no wonder that the band continually assumes different shapes. When the trio’s self-titled first album came out in 2004 on Bowindo, it was clear that eclecticism was the main force driving the band. The liner notes listed a range of instruments and sound sources such as guitars, harmonium, double bass, percussion, glass harmonica, resonant pipes, objects, turntables, synthesizer, tapes, electronics, field recordings, etc., without specifying who played what, thus implying a mutual exchange of roles and a practice in which each musician’s character informs the whole. The result hovers somewhere between intricate textures, in which rhythm dissolves into pulverized constellations of scattered sounds, and severe meditations on abstract nuances; somewhere between the harshest forms of concrete sound and appealing melodic detours.
The opening track, Getsemany Fields Under Impossible Rain, is a noisy magma out of which a clean drone emerges, and the evocative sound of a glass harmonica bends the overall mood into contemplation. Interplays between foreground and background can be traced in Memory Man where a low tone, recalling a whistle, stands against children’s voices, conveying a state of suspension. Denser sounds appear in Bench / Frozen, in which a background buzz is interspersed with sound scratches. Energies are set free in Bedrock, which takes on a more epic form through an effective sculptural drumming that infiltrates textures, until a wash of guitar chords is interrupted by the insistent sound of breaking bricks, carrying the record to its conclusion.
Bedrock’s off-balance impromptu is significant not only in shaking the album’s tones, but also in destroying any perceptual fences and in hinting at a number of sound-shaping directions fully explored in 3/4HadBeenEliminated’s most recent work, A Year Of The Aural Gauge Operation, released in 2005 on Häpna. Here the band shows its more untamed side, opening up to “incorrect” sound solutions that will surprise many. The record’s tracks are marked by an infatuation with outbursts of lyricism and psychedelic rock, with a more rounded sound than their previous album. The eclectic character of this record is clearly evident in the opening track, Widower, in which a melodic guitar arpeggio is interrupted here and there by rough sound until a voice echoes from a distance against a constellation of percussive effects punctuated by exact disturbances. The following Labour Chant is a mesmerizing collage of dark choirs slowly layering against harshly hammered percussion and a waterfall of noise, upon which arpeggios and staccatos build up suspense. Wave Bye Bye To The King starts as a spacey mini-suite that takes off from entangled noises, then gives way to psychedelic guitar flights and half-broken voices that betray lyricism eaten up by a sea of resonance. Throughout the album, drones are interspersed among wayward choirs, half-broken guitar riffs, thinned-down voices, and soft accordion sounds. Each track is born out of improvised recording sessions in which the three explore a rich variety of solutions, and the only structural limit is that imposed by the instruments they choose to play. Throughout the ensuing editing process, any type of composition technique is explored: “We may follow an overall idea for a sound, build up songs, or let various layers randomly intersect, then arrange everything as an electroacoustic piece,” Rocchetti says. Nothing is pre-set, and the band keeps an adventurous attitude throughout the recording sessions and the editing—ultimately, it is as if 3/4HadBeenEliminated had extended the telepathic and daring aspect of group improvisation to the editing process.
Sharing a longing for exploration and a fearless approach that allows them to mix an extended range of music genres, the three still have many resourceful ideas to explore. Their creative restlessness is a guarantee of more dazzling sonic creations to come.
Daniela Cascella is a music journalist and curator based in Rome, Italy. Her research is focused on experimental music and the intersections between sound and the visual arts. She is one of the editors of the Italian monthly music magazine Blow Up, and writes essays and articles for exhibition catalogues and publications in Italy and abroad. Her first book, Sculptors of Sound, was published in May, 2005. She is currently curating Tracks, a series of talks and performances about sound culture in the U.K., at the British School at Rome, and is co-curating the 2006 edition of Eco e Narciso, a project promoted by the Region of Torino, Italy, that will commission site-specific sound installations in museums around the region. This article is based on several e-mail exchanges between the author and the musicians, which took place over the last few months.
o rocchetti, valerio tricoli
Dazzling sonic creations in a dzzying blend of genres from an Italian trio that’s shaking up the avant music scene
BY DANIELA CASCELLA on MUSIC WORKS
Many doorways open onto the kaleidoscopic world of 3/4HadBeenEliminated, an improvisation trio formed in 2002 in Bologna, Italy, by guitarist Stefano Pilia, turntablist Claudio Rocchetti, and sound recordist Valerio Tricoli. A listener could enter the group’s world softly, led by melancholic tracks that reverberate with reverie, or be abruptly thrust in by a whirl of merciless beats, access it through a translucent screen of distorted sound geometries, or be seduced by sliding textures that gradually turn into sculptural structures caressed by ecstatic tunes. 3/4HadBeenEliminated is one of the most original bands on the Italian experimental and improvised music scene today. The band members share an interest in the dynamics of sound in space and in the relationship between sound and memory, plus the sheer pleasure of playing together, which is the emotional motor of the band.
What strikes me most about the band’s two recordings to date is the variety of sound practices, instruments, and sound generating devices—which result in restless, vibrant creations. 3/4HadBeenEliminated pushes the limits of unlikely sonic combinations and finds new solutions through them. Spanning the undefined space between improvisation, sophisticated sound assemblage, psychedelia, drone music, and avant rock, the band seamlessly investigates abstraction and the body, the ethereal and the factual. Over the last few years, each band member (all of them are in their late twenties) has been developing a personal approach to sound through a number of solo projects.
stefano pilia: memories and scattering times
The youngest of the lot, guitarist Stefano Pilia, has been veering more and more toward the investigation of nuanced drones, thus entering a long tradition of spatial exploration of sound. Pilia recounts an episode from his childhood concerning his early perception of sound: “My grandfather was a carpenter and lived in the countryside. In his workshop he kept many machines to cut and plane wood. On summer afternoons, I would sit outside while he worked, mesmerized by the sounds of those machines. In the meantime I would look at the sun, the fields, the lines of ants on the wall. When suddenly the machines were turned off, everything all around appeared renewed.”
This experience relates to what Max Neuhaus would define as an aural afterimage, a strong signal caused by a sudden interruption in a sound continuum. Aural afterimage is a term used by Neuhaus in relation to his Moment Pieces, artworks which take the form of communal sound signals. The driving concept of these works is to frame the sound signal with silence rather than with sound. Instead of a bell suddenly clanging and the sound gradually dying away, the sound is introduced gradually, beginning inaudibly and growing slowly over a period of minutes until, at its height, it suddenly disappears. The long subtle emergence of the sound causes it to go unnoticed. It becomes apparent only at the instant of its disappearance. In this silent moment, for a few seconds after the sound has gone, a subtle transparent aural afterimage is superimposed on the everyday sounds of the environment, a spontaneous aural memory or reconstruction perhaps, shared by all who notice it, and engendered by the sound’s disappearance.
For Pilia, the youthful experience of this phenomenon marked the beginning of a process of recognizing the acoustic complexity that forms the soundscape. The seeming opposition between played music and external sounds—the sounds of nature or of machines, for instance—is resolved in the fullness of the act of listening. “While I play,” he states, “everything seems to develop very naturally; it is a subtle balance between action and listening: they become the same, one inside the other. When this happens I get a strong feeling of freedom. It was very important for me to realize that the most fascinating aspect of sound is to be able to listen.”
Pilia’s solo CDs to date, his 2003 releases Healing Memories And Other Scattering Times, on Last Visible Dog, and The I Season, on Time Lag, employ a palette of delicate hues and soft tones. Healing Memories was recorded live in a very short period, and consists of a range of introspective guitar arpeggios. “The tracks found their structure through the act of playing. I worked on resonances and on the interplay of harmonies and melodies. In certain ways of suspending melody, I felt an evocative power that fascinated me and that could be amplified by highlighting the drone aspect of sound.” More complex and accomplished, The I Season is developed around a core of basic guitar sounds enhanced by tape noise, feedback, the sound of rain, wind, double bass, and cymbals. In contrast with the exploration of melodic structures in Healing Memories, it freezes most dynamics, to focus on the very body of sound and on the way it expands in space. “I worked mainly on various tunings, trying to let the instrument resonate. The attempt at gaining a sound dimension whose centre is the listener is much stronger here.” The overall impression is of a hovering sonic presence that shapes space and breathes within it.         In light of this latter focus, it is no wonder that Pilia recently began approaching space-related issues more directly through installation work. Anything About You? is an installation piece shown at the Talk Show exhibition in 2003 at the University of Venice, and re-enacted on a larger scale in September of 2005 at AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island. The sounds captured by a number of microphones in and around the exhibition space are transmitted through small piezoelectric transducers placed on various objects arranged within the space, providing additional vibrations to the amplified sounds. Pilia searches for the pauses between intentionally produced sounds to give relevance to the acoustic elements that constitute the environment. His note for the installation states that “There is a subtle and unfathomable relationship between sound, space, and the body that also focuses on being in one place in one moment. This installation is an attempt at marking this. The question in the title addresses you as an active sound source, but also addresses the mystery of your being.”
claudio rocchetti: inside the body of sound
If Pilia’s guitar soundscapes dissolve into space, the work of Claudio Rocchetti is a deep plunge into thick sound, investigating its innermost workings. Using a variety of devices such as turntables, audio cassettes, samplers, radios, and microphones, often incorporating other objects and traditional instruments, Berlin-based Rocchetti builds compelling structures that employ sound as sheer matter, mass, and impact. “I have a very direct approach to sound, trying to act on instruments and devices,” he says.
The tarry, mesmerizing hues that characterize his “music objects” are grounded in layers of sound detritus, as in his 2003 solo albums, The Work Called Kitano, on Bar La Muerte, and But Speak Fair Words, on S’Agita. The pieces on these CDs are never self-contained: they function as open plateaux on which various solutions coexist as part of a sound continuum that stretches in time. “I proceed by hints—I love the unfinished. This doesn’t mean that my music is aphoristic: I try to reach the essential by summing up all the visions I get. Segments from the past appear and want to be recorded. My background mixes up. That’s why I face various elements within one piece.” Burned, for example, a piece from Kitano, employs a sample from a Mendelssohn-Bartholdy vinyl, rotated by hand, against small percussive effects and abstract noises from skipping CDs, overlapped by piercing rhythms. The impression is of witnessing the intersection of timeless samples in the fraction of time available on the recording; yet these are part of a larger sound whole, greater than the recording. Rocchetti’s focus is never on frenzied sound collage per se: he lingers on every sample and lets it breathe, so that it opens up and resonates with memories and less obvious structural implications. “I choose certain samples because I am fascinated by them. They have to strike me with qualities that go far beyond what can be measured by frequency or spectre. I am interested in melancholy and the relationship between an environment and its history, either as living memory or as reverberations of a presence.”
For Rocchetti, any recollection from the past is re-enacted in and through the factuality of the record as object: “Each sample is always played by hand; I never let the vinyl record spin by itself. Most times I use turntables as percussion instruments: I stop the records with Sellotape, and use the needles as small microphones. I play the surface of records using sticks, leaves, sand, and paper. Other times, I use records without a groove. Memory, be it absent or denied, is the main glue between all these elements.” From techno rhythms to slow melodies, edgy constructions to samples of choirs and strings, Rocchetti builds layered structures of elusive elements whose sources are often hidden, and enacts a mirror play which may cause dizziness.
His interest in the cinema from the Far East hints at another dimension of his complex compositions. Take as an example director Wong Kar Wai and the way that he employs gestures to set up an environment but not necessarily an action: time in his films is expanded. This is what Rocchetti does with sound, setting up an atmosphere that may apparently be uneventful, but in which what is hidden behind the scenes can be as relevant as what is on the surface.
valerio tricoli: sound perspectives
“My mind revolves around the idea of the invisible limit between inside and outside, between myself and the cosmos. It is invisible but it’s there: the surface of the eyes that is the mirror of the soul and of the world.” These words of Valerio Tricoli introduce his sophisticated approach to the distribution of sound and his ability to shape space and play with distances and proportions, creating daring constructions that cause a stir in the listener from continual shifts of perspective.
Tricoli’s fine recording skills are not only employed in 3/4HadBeenEliminated but also in many other projects, such as his post-production work on Dean Roberts’ Be Mine Tonight. (Together, they also form Autistic Daughters with Werner Dafeldecker and Martin Brandlmayr). Tricoli joins a mastery in sound arrangement with daring intuitions that eschew any rational understanding. All this—plus a penchant for capturing unexpected twists in sound as objet trouvé—sets the ground for his solo 2002 album Did They? Did I? on Bowindo. One could speak of this record not as a work about changes of perspective but a work inside changes of perspective. The album has an unusual structure: its duration as printed on the sleeve is 19′19″, yet the actual recorded track stretches to 41′06″—the later, unacknowledged section seems to cast a shadow upon the former.
The way that Tricoli deals with sound is based on the investigation of several degrees of distance or proximity, gained through a skilful use of volumes, an attention toward microstructures and an openness to unexpected events that occur while listening and recording. While the first part of his album appears to be overpowering (note the continuous roaring sounds that envelop minimal, tiny metal resonances; and the feedback interspersed with minutely arranged clicks and chiming sounds), the second half is a field recording in which every apparently familiar sound (doors closing, voices, noises from everyday activities) seems distant and disturbing.
Spanning the gap between absolute distance and a closeness that borders on infiltration, Did They? Did I? is almost a sonic embodiment of the question asked by T. S. Eliot (an author Tricoli mentions as one of his favourites) in The Waste Land: “But who’s that on the other side of you?” This serves as a meditation on the other side as a continuum and investigates moments of concurrent detachment and familiarity with oneself and the world—when closeness and unity can mean understanding but also infiltration, being near but not crossing the border, or violating it.
Ultimately, Tricoli sees his work as an exercise in discipline, intended as “an urge of constant confrontation with myself—and this confrontation wounds. At times I realize that I don’t know fulfilment, that I can never entirely set myself free. I make music because I need to manifest this helplessness, which is part of being human.”
3/4 had been eliminated
Stefano Pilia says of 3/4HadBeenEliminated: “The solo work of each of us stems from different grounds, but this doesn’t mean that we cannot find a shared language. The way we use our instruments proves it. A strong sense of multi-dimensionality pervades our music.” Given the musicians’ backgrounds, it is no wonder that the band continually assumes different shapes. When the trio’s self-titled first album came out in 2004 on Bowindo, it was clear that eclecticism was the main force driving the band. The liner notes listed a range of instruments and sound sources such as guitars, harmonium, double bass, percussion, glass harmonica, resonant pipes, objects, turntables, synthesizer, tapes, electronics, field recordings, etc., without specifying who played what, thus implying a mutual exchange of roles and a practice in which each musician’s character informs the whole. The result hovers somewhere between intricate textures, in which rhythm dissolves into pulverized constellations of scattered sounds, and severe meditations on abstract nuances; somewhere between the harshest forms of concrete sound and appealing melodic detours.
The opening track, Getsemany Fields Under Impossible Rain, is a noisy magma out of which a clean drone emerges, and the evocative sound of a glass harmonica bends the overall mood into contemplation. Interplays between foreground and background can be traced in Memory Man where a low tone, recalling a whistle, stands against children’s voices, conveying a state of suspension. Denser sounds appear in Bench / Frozen, in which a background buzz is interspersed with sound scratches. Energies are set free in Bedrock, which takes on a more epic form through an effective sculptural drumming that infiltrates textures, until a wash of guitar chords is interrupted by the insistent sound of breaking bricks, carrying the record to its conclusion.
Bedrock’s off-balance impromptu is significant not only in shaking the album’s tones, but also in destroying any perceptual fences and in hinting at a number of sound-shaping directions fully explored in 3/4HadBeenEliminated’s most recent work, A Year Of The Aural Gauge Operation, released in 2005 on Häpna. Here the band shows its more untamed side, opening up to “incorrect” sound solutions that will surprise many. The record’s tracks are marked by an infatuation with outbursts of lyricism and psychedelic rock, with a more rounded sound than their previous album. The eclectic character of this record is clearly evident in the opening track, Widower, in which a melodic guitar arpeggio is interrupted here and there by rough sound until a voice echoes from a distance against a constellation of percussive effects punctuated by exact disturbances. The following Labour Chant is a mesmerizing collage of dark choirs slowly layering against harshly hammered percussion and a waterfall of noise, upon which arpeggios and staccatos build up suspense. Wave Bye Bye To The King starts as a spacey mini-suite that takes off from entangled noises, then gives way to psychedelic guitar flights and half-broken voices that betray lyricism eaten up by a sea of resonance. Throughout the album, drones are interspersed among wayward choirs, half-broken guitar riffs, thinned-down voices, and soft accordion sounds. Each track is born out of improvised recording sessions in which the three explore a rich variety of solutions, and the only structural limit is that imposed by the instruments they choose to play. Throughout the ensuing editing process, any type of composition technique is explored: “We may follow an overall idea for a sound, build up songs, or let various layers randomly intersect, then arrange everything as an electroacoustic piece,” Rocchetti says. Nothing is pre-set, and the band keeps an adventurous attitude throughout the recording sessions and the editing—ultimately, it is as if 3/4HadBeenEliminated had extended the telepathic and daring aspect of group improvisation to the editing process.
Sharing a longing for exploration and a fearless approach that allows them to mix an extended range of music genres, the three still have many resourceful ideas to explore. Their creative restlessness is a guarantee of more dazzling sonic creations to come.
Daniela Cascella is a music journalist and curator based in Rome, Italy. Her research is focused on experimental music and the intersections between sound and the visual arts. She is one of the editors of the Italian monthly music magazine Blow Up, and writes essays and articles for exhibition catalogues and publications in Italy and abroad. Her first book, Sculptors of Sound, was published in May, 2005. She is currently curating Tracks, a series of talks and performances about sound culture in the U.K., at the British School at Rome, and is co-curating the 2006 edition of Eco e Narciso, a project promoted by the Region of Torino, Italy, that will commission site-specific sound installations in museums around the region. This article is based on several e-mail exchanges between the author and the musicians, which took place over the last few months.
REVIEWS
Italian guitarist Stefano Pilia is a lyrical minimalist. That turn of phrase must seem oxymoronic, depending on how austere your minimalism, but Pilia quietly and simply adheres to basic principles about the guitar. His playing evokes oceanic stillness, or tangles driftwood gently bobbing in one place, directionless after the flood. Pilia has already presented us with several solo records, the most recent of which, The Suncrows Fall And Tree, was one of the 2007’s more eloquent explorations of drone. This interest is still in evidence on Action Silence Prayers, thought is far from the album’s raison d’etre. Instead, the guitar is tenderly plucked, singing out calm, winding melodies and that kind of closely chorded, gently discordant shapes once perfected by Taku Sugimoto, Before he turn disappearance into an art form. On “Sky” Pilia applies a similar diffidence and quiet determination to plaing the piano, before an underwater loop for guitar, piano and a Marina Rosenfeld sample peacefully spools aut of audition, like tape unwinding from a reel-to-reel. “Sea” and “Land” bookend the set with texturological explorations that are more elegant than Pilia’s previous drone outings. However , the solo guitar recitals are the most affecting pieces here. Wheter exploring the beating of notes just out of phrase , as on “Question”, or skimming the guitar’s surface with raindrop chimes, as on “Water”, Pilia’s playing is poised, higly articulate and emotionally generous. Jon Dale THE WIRE
 “achingly gorgeous experimental electric guitar pieces from this italian composer/performer, better known for his involvement with the group “3/4HadBeenEliminated” the first few pieces unfurl impeccably recorded feedback & gain chord-clusters in a slow-motion snow-drift, after which the album shifts into an almost gastr-del-sol-lineage “feldman-on-guitar study” before returning into a few mallet/motor-on-guitar studies with gradual tonal creep (not far from a clean-channel re-take on the into to the first ash ra tempel record.) one of the best solo guitar records i’ve heard this year, possibly the best… outstanding” KEITH FULLERTON WHITMAN
 Pilia has become Italy’s finest music export this year. After his stunning CD-R on Last Visible Dog, it was clear he had little competition. His subsonic drones are a thing of beauty; pulling in and pushing the listener away simultaneously, keeping him or her in a constant state of limboith all things Stefano Pilia does, there is an understated and simple beauty beneath them. It acts like a silent guide, making sure everything goes off without a hitch.”- Brad Rose, Foxy Digitalis
 Italian guitarist Stefano Pilia is best known as a member of concrete rock outfit 3/4HadBeenEliminated. He has also been releasing solo recordings over the past few years. 2005?s Healing memories and other scattering times saw Pilia interrogating his basic musical language, framing various playerly tactics, shuttling between guitar drones, melancholy melodies and post-Durutti Column pointillism. For The Suncrows fall and tree, he shifts his focus with composition with two untitled tracks. Pilia relies heavily on drones to do his bidding, and while the drone is one of the most over-subscribed tendencies in experimental music, he reinvigorates its often Tired contours trough the intimacy he weaves in to his textural palette, applying unexpected touches that are bolstered by his’ dorne temporal dissolution properties and structural sturdiness. The opening piece has him slowly folding field recordings, full of quiet incident and shuffling clamour, into swells of higher minded sound. The second piece begins with crashing waves, a cliche of enviromental recordings, before evacuated sonorities slowly accumulated around a tonal centre. This is disrupted by deep piano notes and clusters, which serve as punctuation before Pilia plucks a dark cloud of groan and hum from the air. If the building blocks of Pilia’s compositions are predictable, he’s successful due to his ability both to recharge this resources trough adroit sound organisation and to drag the general field he works within-the drone- out of its complacent stupor. JOHN DALE  THE WIRE JANUARY 2007 
 One of the best drone albums I’ve heard recently is a 2006 release by Stefano Pilia, The Suncrows Fall And Tree on the Massachusetts-based Sedimental label. Pilia is most well known as a member of the Italian improvisation group 3/4HadBeenEliminated, where he plays electric guitar, double bass, various unspecified acoustic instruments, and field recordings. The group’s first album, a 2003 self-titled release on Bowindo, is much closer to The Suncrows Fall And Tree than their more recent release on Hapna, where his guitar is much more prominent as such. The first album is more drone-based, while the aesthetic on the group’s second album seems closer to the queasy listening of Biota, a very active amalgam of studio wizardry and idiosyncratic, mysterious improvisation. The Suncrows Fall And Tree is also quite different from the prepared guitar improvisations on Pilia’s earlier solo release, Healing Memories and Other Scattering Times, which was released on the New Zealand label Last Visible Dog. In fact, one would hardly suspect the presence of a guitar on The Suncrows Fall And Tree at all. Split into two untitled pieces (almost as if it were intended for a vinyl release), The Suncrows Fall And Tree doesn’t follow the common pattern of many ambient drone artists. For one, Pilia specifies on the cover to play it loud, and there are some abrupt transitions that are guaranteed to shock the listener out of whatever comfortably numb blissful state where he or she might have drifted. For example, the first track has a long fadeout, where the glorious and shimmering drone slowly becomes quieter and almost thinner, as the low frequencies in the drone are removed little by little. More than thirty seconds of silence separates the final fadeout from the first sounds in part two, which is the booming of an ocean wave. Wake Up! Many drone artists use field recordings, often processed beyond any semblance of recognition. By contrast, both parts of The Suncrows Fall And Tree have extended sections in the middle that are unadorned field recordings, both featuring something miked very closely, but that remains unidentifiable. Despite the clear presence of crows and other birds along with church bells in the background, between the various crackles, static and other mysterious noises, the inability of the listener to identify precisely all of the sounds makes for a slightly unsettling atmosphere. Pilia’s drones are themselves quite diverse. The opening of part one is a deep, rich, fully resonant drone, but it grows to a climax like being inside a jet engine by the time of the first field recording episode. This complexity is mirrored at the end of part two, where a buzzing, almost metallic drone becomes overlaid with white noise, releasing a giant roar of sound. The end of part one has short melodic fragments buried in the mix, and there is a lovely section in part two extending the resonance of single piano notes (with the attacks removed or otherwise modified, another eerie touch). With The Suncrows Fall And Tree, Pilia has created an electroacoustic work that uses drones as a major compositional tool, but to achieve effects that are striking and unusual. Avoiding sonic gestures associated with one or another school of electroacoustics, and not creating a work entirely of blissful ambience, Pilia has concocted a very impressive electroacoustic debut. I look forward to his continued success in this arena. The Suncrows Fall And Tree is available from Mimaroglu, Forced Exposure, Erstwhile Distribution, and other fine record stores, but not through the typical channels of digital distribution. POSTED BY CALEB DEUPREE
 According to Hapna’s supplementary information for this record, the Bolognese quartet were keen here to produce a series of songs composed during improvisations mixed with electroacustic ‘post-production’ processes that take place in real time instead of being introduced during a later phase. Care and attention was paid to how the sonic peculiarities of the environment were channelled through the customized recording equipment and how prerecorded material should be introduced into the sound. All of which feels a bit like a more detailed “No overdubs” sticker, but fair play to the group: the results more than justify their methodology. In this respect, 3/4HadBeenEliminated are the antithesis of the sliced ‘n’ diced approach to song practised by Markus Popp and Eriko Toyoda as So; the heavily processed mosaics of The Books; and recent examples of ‘music of correspondence’ from Simon Fisher Turner and The Nevermet Ensemble. On A Year Of The Aural Gauge Operation, the way they mould all these elements into coherent pieces in the moment is all important. “Wave Bye Bye To The King” finally resolves itself as a song fragment after seven minutes of slowly mutating layers of sound. Even at their most disrupted , these pieces are all about flow, a throughput of ideas through the psychic/acoustic space (of the group’s apartment, in fact, where this was recorded) at a point in time. The word ‘songs’ is used rather loosely here: the pieces are predominantly slow and instrumental. While the four musicians – who utilise everything from acoustic instruments to electric guitar, to field recordings and electronics – produce something fairly close to conventional structures for parts of “Monkey Talk”, they hit their peak on “Widower”, where vocalist Valerio Tricoli’s melodic utterances stand like marker posts around which these currents of sound eddy. The group use the word ‘psychedelic’ in its purest sense to describe their music, and they are right. This album is stimulating, fascinating and most definitely mind expanding. Mike Barnes, The Wire 265, March 2006.
 “Con pochi mezzi a volte si inventano grandi suoni.Meraviglie accadono a partire semplicemente da una chitarra appena filtrata  o pizzicata con piccoli oggetti metallici. O ancora una chitarra preparata che cospira con il risuonare di cembali o un bidone di latta.Cose povere direte.Sappiate però che per quel che i mezzi possono,fantasia ed ingegno possono molto di più. Opere memorabili sono nate da semplicissime e a volte banali intuizioni. Creatività, buoni ascolti, ed un pizzico di fantasia fanno il resto.”Healing Memories In Present Tension”di Stefano Pilia è insieme a quello di Valerio Tricoli il più bell’esordio italiano in ambito di avant music punto e basta.Perchè cercare altri attributi quando è la musica che parla per se stessa? Ora droning e di derivazione minimalista, ora morbide cascate di corde memori del più bel free folk in circolazione. non a caso se ne accorta la Last Visible Dog,etichetta indipendente del genere, che ha deciso senza indugi di produrre il disco. E noi altrettanto  possiamo fare col perderci dentro queste commoventi e malinconiche “guitar derives”…”.Stefano  Pilia  è in prima  fila  accanto ai grandi “guitar hero” del presente. Una musica  densa, intensa ed eterea, ma poi due passi più in là turbata da rumblings, feedback e dissonanze. C’è forza  e desiderio nel suo modo di comporre, che tra rigorose frequentazioni elettro-acustiche  svela  anche  una componente del tutto malinconica  e contemplativa (8)( Gino dal Soler ) BLOW UP
 Dimenticate per un attimo i toni caldi della sei corde di “healing memories” o gli assalti psichedelici con i 3/4HadBeenEliminated. No, Stefano Pilia non cambia stile, non è questo il punto; con “The Suncrows Fall Ad Tree” sceglie piuttosto di condurci ad esplorare altri territori, più vicini all’elettroacustica -per non dire psico-acustica. Ma ancora non è questo il punto. Dentro questi soli quaranta minuti suddivisi in due partei, credetemi, c’è molro di più. C’è innanzi tutto un’abilità non comune nel costruire un personale, intimo paesaggio sonoro. Qualcosa che a suo tempo e in campi diversi hanno fatto Brian Eno e Lionel Marchetti, i due nomi che mi sono venuti in mente ascoltando il cd.  Il primo in particolare, quello delle iperestesie incantate di “On Land”, che proprio qui, nell’incipit e negli ultimi minuti della prima traccia, sembrano rivivere in tutta la loro desolata bellezza. Sono frammenti, certo, ricordi e memori depositate chissà dove. Del resto la sensibilità di Pilia è unica come lo è la sua capacità di costruire eventi sonori con pochi mezzi: una chitarra, un pò di field recordings e sine-waves, i microfoni a contatto e i misurati rintocchi di piano che emergono nella seconda parte, dissolvendosi infine nei devastanti drones di tubi in pvc suonati con la complicità del vento e con l’amico Andrea Belfi alle alte frequenze di un synth. Feeling e attitudine analogica. Come si faceva, con la devastante bellezza dei timbri, dei volumi, degli spazi, dei silenzi. [8] Gino Dal Soler  BLOW UP
 A volte un nuovo disco arriva come un dono inaspettato. Libiri da costrizioni e incuranti di ogni must all’indomani di un promettente album d’esordio nell’ambito della sperimentazione radicale e dell’improvvisazione, i 3/4HBE riescono a stupire e lo fanno nel migliore dei modi. Stefano Pilia, Claudio Rocchetti, Valerio Tricoli (a cui si aggiunge il batterista Tony Arrabito, già ospite del primo album e di diversi live) non hanno paura di contraddirsi ma, per dirla con Walt Whitman, dimostrano di “contenere moltitudini”. In altre parole realizzano, a modo loro, l’album rock. Pur conservando il bagaglio di suoni-fantasma, drones e distese malinconiche, ritmi implacabili, samples pungenti impiegato nel primo disco, in questa occasione i 3/4 danno libero sfogo a pulsioni precedentemente inespresse e creano una raccolta di brani, in alcuni casi mini-suite di dieci minuti, in cui prevalgono l’elemento “suonato” e un lirismo sommesso. Basti ascoltare la traccia di apertura Widower, la sua melodia che si manifesta senza troppi preamboli e gli squarci di una voce solitaria che risuona lontana, poi trasfigurata in una costellazione di effetti percussivi; oppure Labour Chant, con i suoi cori cupi e sospesi, samples che ricordano i momenti più introversi di Philip Jeck, un incessante gorgoglio sonoro di concretismi e cascate noise che sfocia nella suspense di arpeggi staccati e sussultanti; i riff di chitarra vagheggiati in As Of Yore, sepolti in un mare di field recordings da cui emerge un gemito straniante. Nel corso del disco troverete spesso voci che aleggiano tra residui sonori (Shifting Position), frammiste a crescendo di chitarre o racchiuse in un mare di risonanze memori del Grand Cinema di Dean Roberts (Wave Bye Bye To The King), raccolte in cori sghembi, ibridi di drone-folk stellare (Monkey Talk). Ogni Brano è intarsiato di raffinatezze sonore e dettagli preziosi; a volte vi sembrerà di trovarvi nelle lande brumose esplorate dagli Organum, in altri momenti le architetture corali riecheggiano della psichedelia più travolgente. Soprattutto – al di là di ogni possibile discendenza reale o immaginaria – ci sono quattro musicisti, e un disco, dalla personalità straripante. (8). Daniela Cascella, Blow Up #89
 Stefano Pilia, chitarra elettrica dei 3/4HadBeenEliminated, accosta al suo strumento sparse figure d’elettronica con un sentimento del suono non distante da quello di Belfi: minimale, riduzionista, estatico.Note limpide  e diradate, echeggiate con un gusto perfetto per la risonanza (Question), così evaporate da sfigurarsi (Sea), coniugate con un pianoforte similmente largo (Sky), elevate e irrobustite in un turbini circolari (Land) o appena rintoccate come un bues di Loren Connors (Window). Un suono che pare nascere fuori dall’ aria in cui si diffonde, e crescere nel vuoto, lontano, distante:dentro di noi. Stefano I. Bianchi Blow-Up
 Buone nuove anche per Stefano Pilia che, pur restando legato ad un’estetica bucolica e vicina a filosofie zen e/o naturaliste e pur conservando pressanti richiami agli elementi naturali, abbandona in parte i lunghi bordoni dei dischi precedenti e si dedica ad una ricerca più microscopica intorno ai suoni e alle relative risonanze. Chitarra elettrica (anche preparata), pianoforte, qualche campione e pedaliera loop servono per la creazione di un microcosmo delicatissimo e rarefatto. La grazia e la melodiosità di queste pagine sembrano contrastare con l’energia e la furia elettrica che il Pilia tira fuori nei concerti con i ¾ HadBeenEliminated, e in realtà il multistrumentista bolognese (al pari di Keiji Haino) sembra essere affetto da un vero e proprio sdoppiamento della personalità (e magari anche da un triplicamento o quadruplicamento). È così che l’energia di quei concerti, talvolta rockettona, nei suoi dischi in solitudine si stempera nelle suggestioni provate ascoltando lo scorrere di un ruscello, lo sciabordare della risacca, il refolare di un venticello primaverile od il respirare di un bosco. Sono molti i nomi che potrei fare e portare a paragone di questa triplice meditazione, ma preferisco non farlo perché il disco è fondamentalmente molto personale e frutto di una sensibilità singolare ed, in qualche modo, unica. Preferisco quindi che sia lo stesso lettore a scoprire eventuali richiami, ma sono certo che una volta messo al cospetto di queste trame cristalline ogni pensiero verrà meno e l’abbandono sarà totale…E il naufragar m’è dolce in questo mare. Etero Genio Sands-Zine