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Fragments from the Inside was an art installation at the Palazzo Delle Papesse Centro Arte Contemporanea in Italy, created by poet Mara Bressi and videographer Patulia Mattioli. Overlaid was a performance by Eraldo Bernocchi and Harold Budd.
The recording is then a live one at as we enter we can hear those present settling down (and at the end clapping enthusiastically). Settling down for what though? It is an unusual mix: Budd would have been almost seventy when the music was recorded and best known for his unique (and somewhat timeless) brand of floating ambient piano, where he seems to do almost nothing but manages so much, and Eraldo Bernocchi, Italian experimental electronica maestro known for his unusual turns of sound and rhythm.
Admittedly the album is balanced a little more towards Bernocchis glitches, sequences, samples, drones and rhythmical ambiguities but nevertheless Budd is an important and potent part of the mix.
Listening to Music for Fragments from the Inside I was a little apprehensive, not sure what I was getting myself into. The first listen left me a little uncertain but a second listen and I began to get my feet and listening late night recently I realised just how good the music is, how clever, how accessible and just how hypnotic.
This is not dance music; its not going to get people up on their feet dancing. Even at its most rhythmical its not about to make you flail. The music has a different quality and Ive used the word already: hypnotic. For hypnotic is exactly what Music for Fragments from the Inside is. Im not sure the extent to which the album is either improvised (Budds magnificent album Le Bella Vista is almost entirely extemporised) or carefully constructed. It sounds a little like a mixture of the two. Bernocchis music certainly seems the most pre-planned and Budds accompaniment the more extemporised of the two a situation that probably provided both musicians with the most freedom if expression.
The album begins with trademark Budd piano, seeming to float on air, drifting gently, enthrallingly with little discernable rhythm or structure, though, as always with Budd, achingly lyrical and quietly, unobtrusively beautifully. Eight minutes of floating beauty slide by, possibly the apotheosis of ambient music, never obtruding upon us, but hypnotising us, filling our senses and moving us without our ever quite knowing why. Towards the end of the piece Bernocchi begins slowly to introduce some quietly spiralling drones that shimmer below the surface of Budds piano, the sort of sound that fills spaces and plants within the listeners mind a sense of awe and wonder.
Budd fades out as the spiralling drones build and layer atop another. Bernocchi like Budd is pulling us in. But hes never lazy; never anything less than canny he introduces a staccato vocal sample to change the pace followed by low frequency beats that throb out from the speakers. Sounds echo in the distance as the long, throbbing beats bring a pause. Budd again enters, his precise yet abstract piano sliding beneath Bernocchis spiralling stereo percussion that layers atop the drones and multiples in quiet textures of sound.
Though an odd mix, Bernocchis tabla influences percussion, his slow low frequency beats, his slippery drones match Budds playing: they manage to complement the other. Somehow they seem inseparable but if you heard them separately you probably wouldnt ever consider them together, which is why maybe the first listen is less accessible, especially if a Budd fan like me youre used to his minimal style with little accompaniment. But the over effect is a delight. Bernocchi especially never rides rough-shod over Budd and accords him the respect he deserves. Towards the end of Fragment Two (the album is made up of seven Fragments) he allows his bass throbs to ululate gently as Budds lyrical piano to drifts (almost rhythmically) close to the surface of the music.
We leave our Fragment almost as we began. Budd shortens his lyrical moments and Bernocchi glides out of the piece via slow, long drones and shifts gear with precise tapping rhythms that punctuate the air and then accompanied by dark, deep, low slow thuds of sound and further drifting, spiralling drones: a further tapestry of sounds. All the while Budd drifts in and out, allowing himself fragmentary key strokes, chiming in at all the right moments, cascading over the drones and beats and electronic ululations that Bernocchi pulls forth from his technological gear. In many ways neither artist does much but because what they do so creates layers of sound, generate tapestries of tone and sound so that you never tire of what is displayed before you. As the album and the Fragments progress the music shifts quietly, unobtrusively so that you never hear the same thing twice. Bernocchi introduces unusual, rhythmical, spiralling, dense, playful sounds at intervals that cut through any possible repetition. Equally Budd doesnt allow himself to simply accompany, he enters into the full flow of the music, of Bernocchis intelligent, enthralling ambient swathes. As he appears to improvise he creates pockets of piano that capture the mind, that pull you in, slip your concentration momentarily away as Bernocchi begins to change the tone, pitch and tempo of the music. In this manner they play off one another, allowing the other temporary musical ascendancy.
Live I can only imagine Music for Fragments from the Inside was a stunning experience. The clarity of Budds piano mixed with the rhythmical and deep ululations of Bernocchi pulsing through the open air and into the night: music cascading, hypnotising, sliding, slipping, enthralling, beguiling its audience without appearing ever to try.
For as we progress into Fragment Four and through the Fragments that follow Bernocchi and Budd match silence with rich tiers of sound, match elegant piano with a unique and luxurious density of electronic drones, sweep, beats and oddities. It is not unafraid to drift gently, trusting its hold on the audience, on the listener. It does not drive effortlessly forward, simply effortlessly so that as Bernocchis almost submerged echoes sound youre unaware half a track has gone by, that youre drifting ever closer to an end.
Dark drones encompass us, sealing us tightly into the music as Fragment Five opens, pulsating, ululating, womblike, making room for shimmering, floating atmospheres then beats and glitchy syncopated percussions. Having drifted close to the surface, having reached a simplified moment before Bernocchi begins to layers his textures again, allowing the listeners to lose themselves in the contradicting sound them mesh one into the other. Budd allows him the freedom of space as Bernocchi builds up and only when Bernocchis textures are temporarily complete does he allow himself to entire the mix, to complete the texture, he expand further the musical vocabulary being spoken as he adds his own unique contribution.
Bernocchi slides into Fragment Six on warm atmospheres and quietly crackling electronics. Slow, shimmering almost guitar like riffs ring. Budd adds his own voice, his own notes as Bernocchi builds up again in waves of sound, disappearing, reappearing: waves on the beach, reaching up, floating down, finally giving way to one of Bernocchis more classically rhythmical moments: a beautifully reverb filled, smudgy beat reminiscent of how he brought us into Fragment Two, it echoes and thuds gently over Budds precise notes and like Budd, seeming to do nothing he does so much but it augurs something and you know what it must be. Like those moments in early Brian Eno where he pulls in a musician at just the right moment to change the rhythm here Bernocchi and Budd put up some elegant, restrained yet magnificently catchy and rich rhythms. Budd again almost becomes rhythmical and is certainly lyrical. Bernocchi ululates, pulses, drives the music forward with some deep beats and again, like early Eno, adds those moments those fragments of sound that come from nowhere and complement, that flow into the rich tapestry of sounds already pulsing by. Its one of the most enthralling and beguiling moments of the album. So how it seems almost impossibly rhythmical and yet it barely is. The music is laidback and somehow impossibly powerful, even when as we flow forward, Budds piano seems almost without structure, it clips firmly into place like the kind of piano Bowie occasionally uses (ala the title track Aladdin Sane). Again its the richness of the sound, the continuous and consistency of sound that reaches out and pulls you in. Bernocchis and Budds manipulation of their art and of the listener is such that they give you no chance to free yourself. Though we slow down and Bernocchi begins his drones and spiralling textures, punctuated by silences, then beats then silence then beats. They play with us, set us up for a fall, for silence only to playfully pull us into new rhythms, into new sounds.
By far the longest piece on the album, Fragment Seven in many ways recapitulates all that has gone before. Bernocchi by turns enthrals us with ululating beats, throbbing pulses, drones, atmospheres, textures, traversing the spectrum from rich tapestries to syncopated silences, where his music seems to hover in mid air. Equally Budd enjoys moments of lyrical near rhythm and at other moments allows himself silence or else introduces a carefully placed note or gentle burst of piano.
Whats wonderful about Music for Fragments from the Inside is that it allows us access into just what is possible in several distinct types of music: ambient, electronica, piano music and how music can merge, can be brought together. Bernocchi and Budd seem to be musicians both made for each other and yet total opposites. The music works because both artists are just that: artists; also because they seem to respect each others strengths. Another side of it is Budds work. Bernocchi is certainly experimental but he can also be placed into something of a movement. Budd has never been, per se, fashionable because his brand of music has never really gone beyond his own work. No one has attempted to emulate him or Budd emulate anyone else. Admittedly a few of his albums bear the mark of their time, but many seem to originate from no period of time at all. Thus Budds sound is never tired and all that is required is for the other to find a common musical ground, which they do brilliantly.
I suppose Music for Fragments from the Inside is experimental in places but it is also quite accessible and constantly intriguing. Perfect for late night listening, though probably on headphones as turning up the volume might cause a few too many pulsing beats for your neighbours liking.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Part 1
2 Part 2
3 Part 3
4 Part 4
5 Part 5
6 Part 6
7 Part 7