Review: Dino Spiluttini – To Be A Beast

a1757983380_16It’s there in the cover art. Silhouetted trees reflected in a pool of water. Objects distorted by various manipulations of light: the smearing of branches as refracted by the rippling surface of the water, the backlighting that removes all colour from the leaves and turns the trees into shadows, the distinctive grain of low-fidelity exposure. To Be A Beast is the sonic counterpart to this refracted, part-obfuscated depiction of the world: instruments swirled into their own fantastical echoes, funnelled into the valves of amplifiers, fed along spools of withering tape loop. Spiluttini clearly delights in those feuds between signal and noise, and the heartfelt strain of the former as it tries to force through the erosive crust of the latter. Chords crumble as they ascend. Some manage to break through. Others burn up as they push through the atmosphere, bursting into the soundscape as a husk of crackle and analogue ash.

I never stop to contemplate the source instrument, and Spiluttini has scrambled the route back to the extent that it’s pointless to even try. There might be piano, but I hear no keys. “Wreck The Infinite” possesses an orchestral grandeur, but what’s to say those triumphant blasts of horn aren’t actually synthesisers twisted out of shape? The longer I look at the cover art, the less I register the presence of trees and water. Instead, I see colours blurring into eachother in a purely abstract domain, negotiating the space of the album cover between them. The same is true for the music. Unlike a lot of work that utilises the degradative texture of tape loops, To Be A Beast doesn’t sink into a state of nostalgia or melancholic displacement. I don’t yearn for the clarity of these sounds in their original form. I don’t wish for them to be liberated from the hiss, or to have meticulous correction applied to those aged droops in pitch. The manner in which Spiluttini utilises these sounds – working the accidents of analogue damage into soundscapes of rich, panoramic sound design, melding them harmoniously with shimmering synthesisers played in the present tense – means that the degradation becomes a vital component, no longer symbolic of fault but enriched with a purpose that only broken audio is able to fulfil.