Review: OOAME – Milanese Nwas

OOAME winds it up, and then lets it run. Milanese Nwas is built from custom software and digital synthesis, resulting in an auto-generative music that flickers and dances of its own accord. The press text talks about this material in terms of “artificial wildlife”, likening the lively, self-instigated behaviour of these sounds to insects and plants. Sure enough, those scuttling glitches feel akin to beetle legs or time-lapse flower growth, enacting movement through stop-motion lurches, darting between slices of metallic chime, the tap of taut strings, the rattle of twenty toothpicks, or the pops of carbonated liquid. There are also slower textures seeping through the gaps – organ tones, soft electronics – that act like the sunlight glaring off those ladybird shells and tulip petals, nourishing these organisms and goading them into further acts of autonomous life.

Harmonically, the album strikes upon those chords that feel both optimistic and curious. Major keys twisted and suspended, left gaping in states of mystery. I expect this is one of the parameters that Giorgio Sancristoforo will have consciously configured, with each of these 11 pieces possessing a unique, carefully dialled-in harmonic profile. Because of course, it’s important to remember that “auto-generated” music doesn’t necessarily come from the release of composer control, but the chronological re-ordering of action and result. Instead of flitting back and forth between composer intervention (plucking a string, pressing a key) and sonic consequence, this album is built from a front-loading of artistic decision-making. Is this truly an autonomous music, or merely the prolonged echoes of human-instigated composition? Does it even matter? Perhaps it’s more pertinent to consider that, as I listen to these stereo shapes convulsing and transforming – often resembling someone upending an infinite crate of glass prisms, hand bells and circuit boards – I do not feel the presence of the composer’s hand. With its explosions of change and glitches of indecision, Milanese Nwas sounds as though it’s figuring out existence all by itself, standing as an authentic, thoroughly immerse act of A.I. puppetry.