Spire 2 - Enrico Coniglio "Songs from Ruined Days"

1 track - 45:14

Track listing:
1. Songs from Ruined Days

As part of the Spire project, Touch is pleased to announce this download-only release by Italian artist Enrico Coniglio.

Enrico Coniglio is a Venetian musician who focuses his musical research on the representation of the contemporary landscapes. In relation to his studies in urban planning (University IUAV of Venice), his interest is directed towards the loss of identity of places and the uncertainty of the evolution of the urban territory.

If his music comes mainly from the ambient genre, mixing a droning guitar with field recordings and digital manipulation, on the other hand he’s just interested to document the landscape, meaning to build his personal catalogue of soundscapes, with a particular reference to the Venetian lagoon.

Over the last year he has collaborated with various musicians including Joachim Roedelius, Arve Henriksen, Oophoi and others, and he has releases and podcasts with Psychonavigation, Glacial Movements, Cronica electronica and Laverna net. You can hear a previous release “Sapientumsuperacquis” on Touch Radio.

The present release is a long-drone track mostly based on recordings made in Porto Marghera, a big industrial coastal area on the mainland of Venice, Italy (Winter 2009), now largely on disposal and afflicted by a severe economic and environmental crisis. Part of this work was originally used for a sound work in the “Antares” pavilion of VEGA Park (VEnice GAteway for science and technology) for a photography exhibition as a part of the project "Le nuove vie di Porto Marghera". Other field recordings were made in Vienna, Austria (December 2009), in an attempt to explore the sacral spaces of the city. 'Song from ruined days' is a mix of industrial and liturgical soundscape, a brief journey in the space of a full desolation.

Thanks to Foscara Porchia and Chiara Ambrosi (AIPAI Veneto), owners of the project "Le nuove vie di Porto Marghera", and to Tommy Meduri for the photo.


You can read an interview with Enrico published in Tokafi here

The Silent Ballet (USA):

Enrico Coniglio is a Venetian sound artist, creating pieces out of washed-out drones and ambient guitar loops while integrating them into field recordings. With a background in urban planning, his work explores the aural identity of place in a very sophisticated, if subjective, manner. His latest work is Songs from Ruined Days, a long form recording that is part of the Spire Project. Songs from Ruined Days is the second in this series of records that give the organ special attention. Although it certainly is not the dominant instrument on this recording, the moments that feature recordings of a church organ do function as a sort of narrative climax. Climax isn’t really the point, however. Rather, Coniglio allows the spaces to unfold and blur together, creating a much richer listening experience than one might expect. Obviously field recordings won’t appeal to everyone, but the editing produces a composition that retains enough musicality and depth to pique the interest of less adventurous listeners as well. That, in turn, makes this album a fine example of how the mixing board is an instrument in its own right.

Coniglio’s academic background in urban planning informs his treatment of sonic space, and his composition should be heard in this context. His field recordings do indeed capture a sense of place, but place in a more poetic sense, often transcending a sense of a specific location. Just as photography is deeply subjective, Coniglio’s journey through place, mostly in the post-industrial locale of Porto Marghera (near the extraordinary city of Venice), are documents of a moment, capturing a mood more than some sort of objective data.

Coniglio acts as a driver and his music is his carriage, while you the listener are pulled along on a linear journey through a series of places, woven together yet discreet. These are not places in the physical sense, and not clearly delineated, a point driven home by the lack of tracks. Composed as one long piece of music (forty-five minutes and fourteen seconds long), Songs from Ruined Days is not as ominous sounding or as defeated as it may sound. Melancholic, perhaps, is a better word, though there are elements that can be found as uplifting, more so than maybe even the composer would admit. Because the release is one long piece and isn’t subdivided into tracks—although something like movements may be discernable—the listener is forced to listen straight through, and therefore the slow narrative is more effective. Like a surrealist painting, in which incongruent images are juxtaposed and the perspective may be slightly off, reality is skewed in this work. The mind perceives that something doesn’t quite fit, that these can’t be real audio environments, and Coniglio weaves them together in a dreamlike way, making use of this discomfort as part of the narrative of the track. The collage effect contributes to the setting of mood; it also conveys the reality of Porto Marghera, a city facing dire economic and environmental concerns, in a way that a straightforward description cannot.

The mood of the piece shifts gradually throughout by way of subtle changes in what little melody there is underlying the progression. Songs from Ruined Days can be a bit dingy, not unlike most Italian cities, but also magnificent at the same time, shabby and majestic, proud monuments covered in graffiti, indigent and absolutely free, shot through with rays of sunshine yet with a pervading sense of darkness. The mix of industrial noise and liturgical scenes creates an odd but compelling whole, a picture of life as it is, a moment in time that may soon just as effectively encapsulate an era as much as a location.

Because the recordings were made with binaural microphones, listening in stereo on a good pair of headphones is recommended. The recordings are so lifelike, that even despite being mixed into other sounds, creating new sonic environments, the listener will often have to ask whether the sounds being heard are from the recording or going on around them.

Though Ruined Days is one long work, there are more or less recognizable stops along the way. From [0:00] to [6:40] Coniglio basically lulls the listener with distortion and hissing, crackling noise with subtle melodic undercurrents, as well as a wave of low frequencies. A sudden shift at [6:43] begins a series of simultaneous organ melodies with various field recordings or ambient noise and possibly feet shuffling; this creates a sense of busied yet sacred space, a busyness that fades out into hissing white noise three minutes later, a calm lull in the song, an open meadow before being pulled through the old industrial center. Much of the noise cuts out here, and the attention becomes focused on the prominent reed-like melody, which slowly circles downward. A field recording comes into earshot, voices here and there, the sound of sneakers on a basketball court, the woosh of a net. The Spire Series (of which Ruined Days is a part) ascribes a position of honor to the organ, and this hierarchy goes beyond sonic properties to include the organ’s towering stature, spiritual significance, and novelty in the history of instruments. This short passage alone articulates that aim in a way that words cannot begin to do justice.

At [9:40] the hissing becomes the primary sound again, a spray-paint-like noise, or a fountain misting away. We’ve pulled into a new station. Ominous industrial sounds are barely perceptible, maybe the humming of a turbine, or a motor of some sort. Electricity hums with all the promises of modernity; broken promises, like most. Organ sustain starts to swell into the mix, gradually displacing the hissing noise, the static. A feeling of supreme peacefulness accompanies this new state, although it’s difficult to say where exactly this begins. At [13:54], the organ notes ring out discreetly, while mumbling, murmuring hymns stumble forth from worshippers lips. As this scene fades away at [16:00], a warm musical tone displaces it, the hissing returns, almost like a wind blowing through the square, a scene which now feels lonelier after the church, a loneliness that only makes the prior segment more poignant. Voices approach, perhaps of workers, while industrial noises in the background, loading and unloading, sweep into the picture. An audible knock on the door seems oddly significant. A brief, high pitched choir is revealed, only to be hidden again. A digital watch beeps, looping, while the sounds of work and play intermingle. A toy car? A squeaking noise oscillates, passing for rhythm, the rhythm of the factory or of modernity, perhaps, until several minutes later the sound of actual automobiles speeds by, a high pitch resonating glass, and slowly the scene morphs once again. Like the tide coming in, a low pitch melody creeps in underneath, the listener unaware of this until he finds his feet submerged. At this point, [32:38], the organ comes in, loud and clear and more mournful, yet purposeful, than before. Muttering, shifting, a game or a crowd in church? The choir singing, the organ comes back, people shift and then…

The earth quakes, we find ourselves suddenly disoriented, reality slowly falls apart for the final ten minutes. In keeping with the surreal, dreamlike quality of the experience, the music ends, winding down but finally ending unexpectedly, as if we’ve been forcibly awoken.

Much of the record has this sort of quality. But like a passenger on a carriage ride, what you see depends upon both where the carriage goes and where you choose to look. Coniglio has set the perimeters, and often the desolate landscape offers few sights, however at closer inspection there is much detail to uncover. Though one might mistake this record to contain, perhaps, a lack of memorable events, there is something distinctly modern here.

The writer Julio Cortazar asked a lot of his readers; for him, a lazy reader was one who expected the author to do all the work. This recalls his contemporary, the great composer and visionary John Cage, who taught us that listening is an act of composition in itself. Music such as Ruined Days reminds us of this fact, while also demonstrating the importance of a skilled driver. [Joseph Sannicandro]

Textura (Canada):

In keeping with its title, Enrico Coniglio's Songs from Ruined Days exudes a primarily desolate and even dystopic character during its uninterrupted, forty-five-minute presentation. A download-only release that's part of Touch's Spire project, the Italian artist's latest work is a shape-shifting ambient-drone collage based on 2009 field recordings made in Porto Marghera, an industrial coastal area on Venice, Italy's mainland currently afflicted by severe economic and environmental crises, and in Vienna, Austria. If there's one thing in particular that distinguishes Coniglio's work from that of others in the field recordings-based soundscape genre, it's the degree to which it's focused on distilling environmental settings into sonic form and on capturing the evolution—degradation included—of the urban landscape.

Against a static-encrusted bedrock of reverberant industrial churn, glassy tones and vaporous surges appear, with the mass gradually giving way to a liturgical passage that suggests a church setting where organ playing and rustling movements of people intermingle. Blurry, windswept episodes follow, as do ones involving speaking voices, choral interjections, and industrial ruptures of one kind or another until the piece descends into an electrical swamp in its closing minutes. The impression formed is of a society undergoing collapse, its technological advances undermined by unanticipated cracks in the seams and its rusting machines poisoning the environment as much as benefiting humanity. Shrouded in gloom, the piece unfolds with patient deliberation, moving from one ruined setting to the next, with fragments of choral illumination (a children's choir the most affecting) offering tentative hope for salvation.

Ondarock (Italy):

Non è certo una novità la fascinazione degli sperimentatori elettronici per ambientazioni post-industriali e non-luoghi ove catturare suoni e restituire performance: miliarità architettonica, (assenza di) identità fisica, asetticità ambientale da riempire col suono o con la semplice presenza umana rappresentano concetti sui quali riflettere e con i quali giocare in termini di manipolazione sonora.

Animato da una simile impostazione concettuale, l'artista veneziano Enrico Coniglio non è dovuto andare lontano per trovare l'ispirazione per il suo contributo al progetto Spire, patrocinato dalla prestigiosa Touch e realizzato esclusivamente in formato digitale.

La lunga traccia da quarantacinque minuti "Songs From Ruined Days" da lui destinata al progetto rappresenta infatti il resoconto di un viaggio a Porto Marghera, nel quale Coniglio si atteggia a vera e propria guida, nella narrazione di un abbandono che corrisponde fedelmente a quel processo di desemantizzazione che coinvolge, in termini non dissimili, paesaggi naturalistici, cattedrali industriali e persino città una volta fortemente caratterizzate e adesso vittime di un progressivo svuotamento dalla loro essenza identitaria e del loro contenuto umano.

Per la realizzazione di "Songs From Ruined Days", Coniglio ha infatti utilizzato una notevole mole di suoni catturati in prevalenza proprio a Porto Marghera, alcuni dei quali riprodotti fedelmente in tutte le loro componenti accidentali, altri invece pesantemente manipolati, a creare il tessuto connettivo dell'avviluppante saturazione di drone sulla quale, per tutto il corso della traccia, si innestano sibili e particelle acustiche in continuo moto centripeto.

Ben lungi da un descrittivismo di rassicurante immobilità, quello di "Songs From Ruined Days" è piuttosto un flusso magmatico in continua trasformazione: dai primi cinque minuti di ronzante drone ai successivi innesti organici, dalle incursioni nell'ambient più profonda e spettrale alla granulosa maestosità di aperture dalla forte impronta isolazionista, i primi venti minuti del lavoro descrivono un vitalissimo percorso all'interno della memoria, attraverso una completa rideclinazione percettiva del suono, sospesa tra rilucenti schegge heckeriane e incandescenti distorsioni che possono lontanamente rimandare alle torsioni più astratte di Aidan Baker.

Nel lavoro di Coniglio non vi sono tuttavia soltanto astrattezze ipnotiche e ottundenti, ma accanto ad esse convive lo sguardo profondamente umano dell'artista, che dei (non-)luoghi e dei paesaggi sonori coglie tanto il vuoto quanto l'essenza vitale che li riempie o li ha riempiti. Così, le torsioni droniche si ritraggono, lasciando spazio a suoni organici ben riconoscibili - intorno ai quattordici minuti si distingue un organo che suona le note dell'inno inglese - dialoghi cristallizzati in field recordings e frammenti di un coro religioso, prima accennato (minuto venti) e quindi protagonista di un kyrie eleison (minuto trentatre) che suggella la sacralità del lavoro quale anello di congiunzione tra lo svuotamento post-moderno delle cattedrali dell'industrialismo otto-novecentesco e lo smarrimento di una dimensione spirituale, in qualunque modo intesa.

Il messaggio sotteso a "Songs From Ruined Days" sembra dunque proprio quello che l'inaridimento di questi due cardini fondamentali costituisce la prima causa di annichilimento di ogni identità individuale e condivisa, che abbia ad oggetto persone, luoghi o costruzioni. E il monito è tutto racchiuso nella parte finale della lunga composizione che, rimossi mille innesti sonori che l'hanno caratterizzata in precedenza, si presenta come immersione nelle asfittiche profondità dark-ambient e infine nei tre aspri minuti di distorsione conclusiva, prima che sopraggiunga il silenzio, al tempo stesso benedizione e sentenza inappellabile. [Rafaello Russo]

Rockerilla (Italy):

Aggirarsi in luoghi i più impensati con un microfono binaurale è come avventurarsi nella scrittura di un racconto, si usa il field-recording come strumento per costruire con assoluta precisione una storia che poi verrà raccontata attraverso il suono. Enrico Coniglio è maestro in questo: assolutamente imperdibili i 'fields' downlodabili dal suo sito così come imperdibile è questo suo ennesimo 'racconto' che vede la luce per Spire, colta ed affascinante realtà sulla quale vigila la sempre prestigiosa Touch. Ma entriamo in punta di piedi dentro questi suoni e cerchiamo di capire qual'è la storia che andremo a vivere: Fincantieri di Marghera, l'impatto è sconvolgente! Sul noise creato dalle turbine degli aspiratori si innesta una melodia creando un sorprendente 'effetto cattedrale' che si propaga per tutta la durata del 'racconto'. Quelli registrati sono i suoni degli enormi spazi occupati dalla grande industria, sono i Grandi Molini, la Fincantieri, il MAS, un immenso capannone nel quale si assemblano i pezzi delle navi da crociera, è la liturgia del lavoro che si sposa con quella della preghiera grazie al continuo inserimento di droni che accompagnano il 'lettore' attraverso i due mondi portandolo dagli stabilimenti di Marghera fin dentro la religiosità delle chiese con le sue celebrazioni liturgiche. La crudeltà del duro lavoro e il tentativo di elevazione spirituale in un mondo alla mercè della rovina.  [Mirco Salvadori]

The Ruined Cathedral (blog):

Enrico Coniglio is based in Venice, Italy, where he trained as an urban planner, and his music has deep roots in his environment. I reviewed one of his collaborative works a while back, and this year he released Songs from Ruined Days digitally on the Touch sublabel Spire. At first glance it seems like an odd alliance, since Coniglio's only traditional instrument is the guitar and Spire is all about the pipe organ. But Coniglio is operating here as an aural observer, composing this 45-minute work from field recordings, some of which include a pipe organ. Songs from Ruined Days is a poignant indictment of commodification and the resulting dilution of cultural identity, where the pipe organ acts as a symbol of the paradise lost.

The origin of Songs From Ruined Days is a collection of field recordings from industrial sites and cathedrals, both of which Coniglio sees in a state of crisis. The industrial samples feed into deep, buzzing drones with a full sonic spectrum, an aural equivalent of a dense fog through which we occasionally hear incomprehensible voices and other traces of human activity. Sometimes sustained organ tones underpin this fog, materializing quietly, merging into slow melodies and hushed harmonies. Sometimes, it's just static, atmospheric crackles and the oscillation of distant traffic. But three times out of this haze emerges unadulterated liturgical music, startling in its clarity, beauty, sadness and tradition.

These interludes of sacred music bring a sense of holiness to the music, yet these songs are as ruined as the industrial wasteland that surrounds them, corrupted by human frailty and unable to offer any spiritual nourishment. The pipe organ plays a hymn in the first interlude, faintly accompanied by its congregation. The reverberant space around the organ informs us that we're in a cathedral, and we should have a massive choir celebrating in song. Instead, a few voices, out of tune and out of sync, struggle to carry the message. The second interlude is for a choir alone, but they emerge from street noise and transient conversations, a distant rehearsel punctuated by air brakes and other industrial noises. Choir and organ join in an offertory in the final interlude sequence, the organ setting up a beautiful, clear chorale to the Virgin Mary, Kyrie Eleison and a concluding organ postlude. Even here, the liturgical music is overlaid with conversations and street noises, the sound of nobody paying attention. Lord have mercy indeed.

Songs From Ruined Days isn't Coniglio's first piece dealing with the environmental state of the Venetian lagoon and its surrounding industrial park. Field recordings from the factories show up in Abibes, his podcast for Cronica, and the pollution in the lagoon a subtext in Sapientumsuperacquis, a podcast for Touch Radio. Listeners shouldn't be surprised that some of the drones in the earlier work bear more than a passing resemblance to this one, but the overt symbolism of the liturgical music moves Songs From Ruined Days away from a pure ambient work and into a class of its own.

Audiodrome (Italy):

Qui il sound artist veneziano si confronta con il progetto “Spire”, seguito e pubblicato in rete dalla Touch, che nasce con l’idea di prendere una serie di artisti di area ambient/elettronica e dar loro carta bianca sul tema “The Organ - The Emperor of Instruments” e tutto ciò che concettualmente può starci intorno (in primis: Chiesa, cori, religione). Enrico dalle sue parti trova oggi due tipi diversi di “cattedrali abbandonate”: le prime sono quelle di Porto Marghera, le seconde quelle che tutti conosciamo, ormai in parte lasciate vuote da una popolazione che pare abbastanza secolarizzata (ai posteri l’ardua sentenza). Si passa dunque dal rumore delle turbine che si fa quasi drone a un momento di pace temporanea, per poi ripiombare in un altro drone piuttosto sconfortante che scopriamo trasportarci all’interno di una chiesa, così come il suono dell’organo e il campionamento di un coro rivelano chiaramente, prima che Enrico rialzi il livello di saturazione e riporti la traccia in una dimensione più astratta e di nuovo desolante, grazie anche a qualche minimale linea di synth (organo?), ed ecco che ci si ritrova – probabilmente – di nuovo a Porto Marghera, e così via, di sfumare in sfumare. Informandoci sull’origine dei field recordings possiamo capire l’idea-guida di Song From Ruined Days e apprezzare il lavoro da un punto di vista più razionale, ma anche a livello di pura emozione è semplice aderire, specie nelle parti più noise di questo tragitto lungo tre quarti d’ora, con la tensione che riprende anche allo scadere.

Blow Up (Italy):

Continua l'indagine del soundscape della laguna veneziana da parte di Enrico Coniglio, compositore, chitarrista, field recorder che, già in orbita Touch, pubblica questa volta nell'ambito del progetto Spire un'unica lunga traccia, disponibile solo in versione download. L'interesse documentaristico del musicista veneto per il paesaggio contemporaneo (ed in questo caso per le sue derive industriali) si intreccia in questo lavoro con la componente strumentale: un drone di chitarra dilatato e reiterato si interseca con i field recordings dell'area industriale di Porto Marghera (anche se una piccola parte delle registrazioni si riferisce ad una sessione invernale a Vienna). Una sovrapposizione che svela in negativo i contorni netti di un orizzonte alienato, di uno spazio desolato definito da un'operazione di aggregazione musiva degli oggetti sonori che lo compongono, nella minura in cui "gli oggetti che compongono un paesaggio non possono essere semplicemente concepiti nella loro individualità". Un altro tassello significativo che si aggiunge all'antologia paesaggistica di Enrico Coniglio: i tempi sono ormai maturi per un album sulla label di Jon Wozencroft e Mike Harding. [Leandro Pisano]

Arpeggi (Italy):

C’è davvero qualche cosa che si muove in Italia o si è sempre mosso discretamente, sommesso e con eleganza.

Parliamo della musica ambient sperimentale, che persino nel Belpaese continua a far parlare di sé apportando al genere il suo perchè.

Non mancano di dire la loro le giovani leve e dopo Ielasi, Rocchetti e Shinkei ecco il chitarrista, compositore e field recorder Enrico Coniglio a firmare un nuovo progetto niente meno che con la Touch.

Un’unica traccia “Songs from ruined days” in quarantacinque minuti di raccolte per field recording intrappolate tra cattedrali, spazi abbandonati ed istantanee dall’essenza vitale.
Tra senso del racconto, malinconie e memoria sonora alla Basinski, le forme -qui in sostanze organiche, incursioni dark ambient, particelle in droni, parti acustiche e distorsioni- lavorano con la rigorosità di un Hecker sulla prospettiva o come un Brian Eno emulano l’immobile ma dialogano con il divenire rilevandone chiaramente le fonti (organo, dialoghi, estratti di cori sacri) quando non le sorti affidate negli ultimi minuti al silenzio che diventa chiaro manifesto del tema dell’abbandono.

Tutt’altro che asettico, il non luogo qui si scontra tra il sacro e il profano, illuminato prima tra le fila angeliche, celebrato poi tra rarefatte, cupe e crepuscolari manipolazioni sonore.
Tutto fluttua in un equilibrio miracoloso, disponendo i substrati con accurata riflessione a favore di una composizione comunicativa, simbolica ed evocativa. [Sara Bracco]

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