It can be hard to write about the music released on Italian label Gang of Ducks. It’s too weird. Take XIII’s No (The Relative Effect Of Explication), one of the finest records of 2015. It’s almost impossible to review, because what is there to say beyond “This one’s gloopy; this one bangs; this one sounds like “Laura Palmer’s Theme” only weirder and sadder.” Since that release they’ve been slowly but steadily pumping out slices of electronic oddity, with releases from artists like Ital and Dave Saved. They’ve juxtaposed these with sprawling compilations featuring recognisable names like Best Available Technology, Vaghe Stelle alongside lesser known quantities. One such artist is Regno Maggiore (Il Regno è Maggiore means “the king is greater”), who turns in the first GOD release of 2019.
Astroveliero is a six-track release that reflects the artist’s beliefs and experiences. As befits an artist on this particular label, it’s a weird one. Not offputtingly so, but strange enough to maintain interest and wrap its claws around your brain. “Incontro Celeste” opens with falling rain, and some seriously troubled vocals, both song and spoken. A flailing trumpet line (I think) that sounds like a siren leads into sombre piano and chilling, very Italian guitar (I think) that sounds like it’s straight out of Argento. The natural bird song present in ‘Lamnomnia’ is paired with digital chirps that lend to the song (and indeed the album) a sense of duality – the cavernous dankness is rendered 2D by these synthetic sounds. The whispers and organ throughout this song continue the sense of Argento-like terror. It’s hard to know whether the vocal exercises – a string of awkward arpeggios – are intended as menacing or comical. Does it matter?
‘Astroveliero Vol.2’, the not-quite title track that could mean starship (I’m really reaching here), features beautifully simple melodies that could either be a child’s practice or a strange dialtone. If it were any longer it could truly soar, but its brevity does mean it never gets the chance to become boring or trite. It leads the way for a truly unsettling run of tracks that’s definitely not what one might expect from what is ostensibly a techno label (slash-arthouse-slash-nightmare factory). ‘La Danza Di Sabasaa’ is a wild ride, a clanking dance with vocals reminiscent of Gichy Dan’s “Cowboys & Gangsters”. Only this is not for the disco. This is a ritual experience by candlelight in an abandoned cave in the Italian foothills. ‘Selva Oscura’ is the flip-side to that experience, angry, persistent drumming fading into strange nothingness. Finally, the utter drama of ‘Oracolo’ is a fitting end to the piece, with strained voices and dank fuzz submerged beneath a soaring and joyful organ line. Yawning, cataclysmic drones offer finality and closure, the track collapsing under its own weight.
As if to add to the strange and somnambulant undertones of this release, the artist composed a 40-minute podcast inspired by Lee B Steiner’s Sounds Of Self Hypnosis Through Relaxation. It takes that 1959 Folkways release and adds to it music in the hope of guiding the listener towards heightened states of relaxation and “mental reprogramming”. If nothing else, these lofty goals set a benchmark for artistic intent.
Regno Maggiore – Astroveliero is out now on Gang of Ducks. Buy here.