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Il Santo Bevitore
Water and Tears Agata Kik , February 15th, 2022 10:06

Il Santo Bevitore - aka Dronica festival curator Nicola Serra – takes us on a journey deep into the earth with an album of textural experimental soundscapes, finds Agata Kik

To start an album in reverse might seem particularly perverse. Nevertheless, it’s with fifty-eight seconds of squeaking, like a rewinding tape, that Il Santo Bevitore introduces his debut for Opal Tapes Water and Tears. This surprisingly short first song titled ‘A Spell On You’ sets the scene for the unfolding experimental journey, with whose diverse soundscapes, Il Santo Bevitore, paves the way for all the subsequent songs to harmoniously develop one after the other.

Drums and screaming engulf the listener like an avalanche early on. Inspired by the pagan past and Sardinian mythology, the voices and echoes of ‘Panas’, the ghosts of women who died while giving birth, often come to the album’s highly textural surface. For example, ‘Flesh’ constitutes a macabre mess of thumps and screams which sound like vocal cords being slit. Liminality and movement are central to Water and Tears. The title track starts with a warning siren only to then ruthlessly transport you straight into a mythological Styx, a borderline river between Earth and the Underworld.

For Water and Tears, Il Santo Bevitore extensively worked on sonic textures and in each track, you can hear many layers of sounds. The entire album is characterised by textural thickness and a distinct quality of sonic spaciousness. The collaborative nature of this twelve-track album, involving eleven other musicians and artists, who contributed to the recording with different instruments and their voices, shows Il Santo Bevitore’s curatorial alterego, who runs Dronica, the London’s experimental music festival. Apart from the live recordings that contributed to the album, the composition also consists of meticulously selected samples and field recordings that Il Santo Bevitore archived in the past few years at different times and localities. To collaborate on the album with such a crowd of creatives and such mixed material, while digitally connecting while isolating over the two long years of the pandemic, must have posed a real challenge, but perhaps, thanks to this the sound on the album is heavily processed, what makes it reverberate so irresistibly.

The variety of instruments and their diverse sources create an exceptional depth of space, into which the listener is alluringly grabbed into at first, to be then dragged dead later ahead. While ‘Fracture Belief’ is a track of airy ambience, the following ‘Feral’ immediately brings one down to earth and deeper down underneath. The tribal drumming, that Il Santo Bevitore is known for, is this time contrasted with delicate beating and dark humming. Ghostly growls metamorphose into siren-like whispering, while at times a metallurgical blaze confronts sounds of theremin, saxophone, viola, flute, contrabassoon, glockenspiel, and clarinet. These multi-layered soundscapes make Water and Tears a potent physical experience. The album’s journey feels to me like a purgatory trip through hell – just the kind of cathartic release we have all been waiting for in the current times of confinements, suspensions, and silence.