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Age of insects. MEM1 + STEPHEN VITIELLO
(Dragon’s Eye 2011)

Age of insects is the first published collaborative work by electroacoustic duo Mem1 (Mark and Laura Cetilla) and NY artist Stephen Vitiello where they recorded a series of improvisations and released them without major editing or post-production treatment.

The first piece of the release is Cascoplecia which starts with sonorities reminiscent of ambient music but through the middle the piece takes an interesting turn into a more concrete sonority where drones and field recordings build this gigantic sound object that would later disappear to bring back the melodic elements that started the piece to have them interacting with a series of harsh sounds evoking the sonority of insects.

Ektatotricha, the second piece, works like some sort of progression where this deaf low sounds goes through the whole piece finally merging with different sounds that again remind of insects but that now make emphasis on the textural and percussive element. The piece successfully deals with temporality through a strong organic sense of progression and repetition.

Vosila ,piece number three, takes the listener through droning rusty metallic sonorities depicting a combination of strings and junk that slowly surrounds the listener taking him across textural and objectual sounds that on a subjective observation reminds me of gigantic insects flying around waiving their wings. This piece is a good example of the physical character of this release in terms of establishing a believable and sensible acoustic universe rendered through very well depicted forms and shapes of abstract nature.

Prothoplasma is one of the strongest pieces of the release. It starts through a depicted dark environment that builds up to a harsh noisy sound that gets louder and louder until it suddenly fades out at the end. There is a powerful “element” through this piece that I have a hard time articulating through words which brings to my mind the problem of writing about sound works: the problem of being aware of something through the sensible experience but not being able to break it down into anything else than what it is: a sound object.

Paleophaedon is a short piece where different elements work together such as slow melodic patters and repetitive machine-like sounds. The piece goes deeper as time lapses until it reaches a fading depth.

Piece number five, Monura, features a strongest presence of electroacustic formal elements where droning sounds and sine waves take the listener through this 8’33” experience that is explored across dreamlike images and bizarre sonorities full of mystery and uncertainty.

Electrinocellia is the final piece of the release, which has this beautiful strangeness that is successfully developed through the proven capacity of the artists to build sounds with a tangible physical presence and where every object appears real and purposely dealing with its environment. Electrinocellia potentates the narrative character of the release through the use of concrete sounds juxtaposed melodic and rhythmic elements full of intention and meaning.

Age of Insects is an effective example of the strengths of improvised music in terms of dealing with time and temporality in part because the artists constantly deal with the right here right now using the timeline as one of the key formal elements. The aesthetic acoustic considerations present in Age of Insects are very successful in terms of how they build this universe (conceptually and formally) and establish this object-space-time relation that works on a perceptual level building up images of wires, insects, metallic surfaces and bizarrely depicted temporalities and spatialities.

-John McEnroe

Mem1 website
Stephen Vitiello website
Dragon’s Eye Recordings website