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Pedro Vian & Mana
Cascades Irina Shtreis , December 12th, 2022 09:30

The collaborative album by Pedro Vian and Daniele Mana amplifies the liminal space, finds Irina Shtreis

Cascades opens with a brief ‘Intro’, a one-minute composition that performs a mimicry of urban space. Featuring distant, siren-like sounds, echoes and faux dogs barking, the track is a cityscape, a warm-up before a spiritual take-off and departure to higher realms.

If one applies writing terms, such as showing and telling, to music, the former is always difficult to achieve in the context of a sonic narrative. Yet, the first collaborative work by Catalan artist Pedro Vian and Piedmont-born composer Daniele Mana isn’t deficient in means of artistic expression. 

A concept album, Cascades explores a transitory state. All tracks but the first bear the same title and feature a wavelike pattern, which brings up an association with the forces of nature. The intense white noise on a few tracks can be hardly distinguished from the roaring sound of a waterfall. 

Both Vian and Mana are not new to such experiments. The former launched Modern Obscure Music, an imprint exploring research and interdisciplinary methods such as deep listening. Mana is a sound designer, well-versed in making albums in one sitting. Sharing their adventurous approach, the two teamed up for a three-day studio session in Turin. The result is a sonic palimpsest with a haunting atmosphere. Perhaps inevitably, the overused word hauntology comes to mind.

Despite its observational and somewhat meditative quality, Cascades seems to be born out of active interaction between its producers and the surrounding environment. Certain technical aspects imply that communication was a key component. The production process involved the so-called organismic synthesizer LYRA-8, which creates an effect of a “conversation” between generators of the instrument. Multiple voices and textures intertwine, generating a synthesised polyphony. The resulting echo chamber is mesmerising and healing.

Although quirky, this music suggests a safe cocoon-like environment, a bit similar to Cluster and Harmonia albums. The collage of sounds and minimalist keyboards on ‘Cascades 4’ resonate with the Krautrock vibe on 1979’s Großes Wasser and 1974’s Musik von Harmonia. There are other elements in this sonic palimpsest. ‘Cascades 2’ echoes the intro from Sigur Rós’s album Takk. ‘Cascades 7’ distantly reminds me of the strangest bits of the soundtrack to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. With its overarching idea of transition, the album instils active observation. It is a perfect companion for anyone who feels uncomfortable on his or her journey through liminal space (as we all do).