Politics & Paranoia: Alessio Natalizia On Italian Electronics & New Wave
, September 6th, 2013 06:08
The Walls and Not Waving man talks us through a few highlights from his newly-released 80s Italian new wave compilation
Mutazione: Italian Electronic & New Wave Underground 1980-1988 is a compilation out on Strut this week, whose title does a very good job of encapsulating its contents. We asked the compiler Alessio Natalizia of Not Waving and electronic duo Walls to talk us through his love for the little talked-about genre and how he made his choices.
Laxative Souls (LXSS) - 'Niccolai'
This was one of the first songs I thought should be on the compilation as it seems to be a true symbol of the days I wanted to frame with Mutazione.
Politics and paranoia.
Released at the tail end of Italy's so-called Years Of Lead, this is the most haunting and enduring moment on Mutazione. It beds moody ambience and white noise with the phone call made by the leftist Red Brigades terrorist group to a colleague of kidnapped MP Aldo Moro, explaining where he could find the politician’s body.
Laxative Souls (also known as LXSS) is the project of Roberto Marinelli, based in Porto d’Ascoli, a small town in the middle of Italy.
He is one of the first industrial 'power electronics' artists that appeared in Italy second only to M.B. (Maurizio Bianchi). Marinelli mainly worked with raw electronics, distorted vocals, concrete sounds, self-assembled electronic circuits, and sample sources, such as news broadcasts, documentaries and recordings.
'Niccolai' is one of the most intense pieces of music I know.
0010110000010011 (Cancer) - 'Naonian Style'
The binary coded band 0010110000010011 (Cancer) were from Pordenone in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, in the far north-east of Italy. The town's name comes from the Latin 'Portus Naonis', meaning the port on the river Noncello. The band wanted a sort of an imaginary independent republic status, the Republic of Naon, hence the title 'Naonian Style'.
Since the 60s the area had always been in touch with English and American music, which had been circulating in the Pordenone area due to the presence of a U.S. military base in the town of Aviano before its eventual spread to the rest of Italy.
Formed by Ado Scaini, previously one half of key Italian punk band Tampax, 0010110000010011 (Cancer) came from the Great Complotto collective, one of the earliest, if not the first, examples of punk movements in Italy that emerged in 1976, coinciding with the rise of UK punk. The Great Complotto always declared its independence from the rest of the Italian punk and new wave groups.
Whilst seemingly naïve, the group were working in radical way, as Scaini recalls in a recent interview with Italian journalist Andrea Pomini: "In 1979 we decided to create 00010110011110111. We played Naonian folk music, biological electronic music with a human drummer simulating the sound of a drum machine and a keyboard player who played like an on/off switch. We were playing anything we thought could work as a musical instrument, like hoovers or toys. We were too ignorant to have any sort of musical references - we did not even know where the ‘C’ note was on the Farfisa organ." This was the beginning of punk in Italy.
Daniele Ciullini + De Rezke - 'Ancora Icone'
One of the only two songs sung in Italian on Mutazione, taken from the Traxtra LP. The pioneering label who released the album TRAX was an incredible organisation; they were a networking project with different centres and no fixed geographical base, with over 500 members spread across Europe.
Inspired by the Fluxus group and artist magazines like Aspen and Geiger, TRAX was a modular system with infinite compositions where each member (called Unit) generated "trax" that would be coordinated by a "Central Unit" with a variable number of participants called "Peripheral Units".
The Traxtra LP predates file exchange as a work method, being entirely made up of tracks that had been recorded and exchanged via mail between musicians in the collective. The internet before the internet.
This piece 'Ancora Icone' is the product of a mail-collaboration between Daniele Ciullini, aka 'Unit 08', from Florence, and De Rezke, Unit 09, from Genova.
TRAX founders were Piermario Ciani (Unit 01) who was a protagonist in the Great Complotto experience as a member of mysterious band Mind Invaders, and Vittore Baroni (Unit 02), a mail artist, music critic and explorer of counter-cultures.
Other people joined under the name of Unità Centrali TRAX, like Massimo Giacon, a now respected Italian illustrator and designer who has collaborated with some of the major architecture offices and product design brands like Memphis, Artemide and Alessi. He features in Mutazione with his band Spirocheta Pergoli.
Victrola - 'Maritime Tatami'
This is probably the most pop moment from Mutazione (together with the Carmody and Pale TV tracks) and one of the best songs the Italian New Wave period gave birth to.
Victrola was a duo made up of Antonino "Eze" Cuscinà and Carlo Smeriglio, who hailed from Messina in Sicily. They moved to Florence in the early 80s and only recorded three songs during their existence.
One track was released as part of the Gathered compilation, released in 1982, and the other two songs made up the 'Maritime Tatami' 12" released in 1983 on the legendary Italian record label Electric Eye.
'Maritime Tatami' is a synth-pop masterpiece lasting over 8 minutes, in which a propelling 606 drum machine beat and a 303 bass line form the main body of the track, while an alienating catatonic voice makes the whole thing extremely catchy.
It's sad that Victrola didn't go on to release further music, as this 12" doesn’t sound like anything else recorded in that period. This really is from a dimension all of its own.
Neon – 'Information Of Death'
Legendary band still active today, formed in Florence in 1979 and led by Marcello Michelotti (the only permanent member). They were part of the Florence Dark Wave scene together with Pankow, Diaframma and Litfiba, who went on to become hugely successful.
'Information Of Death' was recorded with a minimal two-piece line-up (called neoONE and neoTWO) and released in only 500 copies in 1980.
Nothing sounded like this in Italy in 1980, and the song quickly became one of the Dark anthems of the Italian New Wave.
Die Form - 'Are You Before'
The two bands Tasaday and Die Form came from Brianza, in the Lombardia region covering the triangle between the cities of Milan, Monza and Brescia, an area known for the high amount of furniture factories.
Die Form first emerged in 1982 with the cassette La Dimensione Umana released in 300 copies on Electric Eye. After recording the cassette, the singer Franz left the band and the remaining members merged with long time friends Orgasmo Negato (also known as Nulla Iperreale), choosing the definitive name Tasaday in 1984.
'Are You Before' is the first song on the B side of that tape.
The band was made up of six extremely young kids influenced by the music of Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle and Pop Group, as well as the philosophical theories of Georges Bataille and Jean Baudrillard.
I thought the obsessive dub-funk of 'Are You Before' would be the perfect opening track for Mutazione.
Tasaday – 'Crisalide'
'Crisalide' is taken from the double LP compilation 'The Negative Communication Age' released on the Amen – THX 1138 label and is the most recent track featured on Mutazione. Though recorded in 1989 you could imagine this song fitting perfectly on Liars' Drum's Not Dead.
The Tasaday name comes from an indigenous tribe discovered in 1971 in the Philippines. The tribe had thought the forest where they lived was the whole world and that they were the only people on earth.
Although very young, the band were comparatively visionary, fascinated by the Junger Deutscher Film (New German Cinema) and Martin Heidegger.
With their live shows becoming more and more similar to tribal noise rituals with as many as nine band members onstage, they were miles away from the more conventional singer-songwriter and rock shows that were hugely popular in those years.
Mutazione is out now on Strut Records. For more information and to buy the compilation, click here to visit the label's website.