Lieu is the debut from the collaborative pair FaravelliRatti. As the name might indicate, the members of the duo are named Attilo Faravelli and Nicola Ratti. Ratti is better known, having received attention for the excellent Bellows project with Giuseppe Ielasi, as well as for solo records and remixes. Faravelli has done much work in sound engineering for radio, film, and theatre, and he brings a sense of live dynamics and space to the project. He also released his debut Underneath the Surface on the Die Schactel label last year. Thus, the pair brings both experience and youthful eagerness to the table.
Lieu is the kind of record that you can get lost in, a different world that deserves attentive listening and contemplation. A casual listen or play in the background doesn’t do the work justice. Granted, the experience of seeing the duo live is surely a very different experience, only in part because the live experience is always different when re-presented in recorded form. Faravelli uses eight different prepared-speakers and tape-recorders to output his manipulations, focusing not only on treating sound but on steering it and sculpting its shape. Despite this physical dimension being kept from us, the result is nonetheless successful in stereo, and the record is carefully mixed so as to create an excellent and engrossing headphone experience.
At six tracks and thirty-nine minutes, Lieu can feel both (too) short and patient, though never drawn out. The whole affair has a poetic air, and the song titles even seem a bit like a ragged impressionistic stanza or surrealist word game. If each were a line in a poem, it would read: “At Noon / Bows and Arrows / And Lacrosse Sticks / I’ve Witnessed / The Spectacle / Every September.” Ratti’s guitar playing is now familiar, now confident but fragile: with each note it seems as though it might just fall apart. His playing seems to be striving toward something, articulating a greater truth yet always deconstructing before it can be vocalized. The pair’s combined electroacoustic manipulations create a backdrop against which Ratti’s guitar can meander, and though various motifs emerge, there is very little that is repetitive. Instead fluidity and a dreamy dynamic dominate the atmosphere, while organic-sounding thumps and wavering pulses create a relative presence to ground the experimentations. The overall album seems to strive to be a coherent whole, and it is successful, though it can certainly be approached in varying orders or as individual tracks as each creates a complete sensation and space of its own.
Though the essential ingredients are the same, particular tracks exploit varying sections of the spectrum or style of playing to grant each a distinct personality. The short penultimate track “The Spectacle,” for example, makes use of a repeated honking sound, while closer “Every September” makes use of more upfront, sustained bright notes on the guitar. Though the songs generally lack a beat, the low oscillations can at times create a pulse that invites the listener in, taking the place of a more in-your-face beat. Instead, the music seems to ask your own biorhythms to succumb to its throb, while the duo engages in a unique dance of their own. At times the tracks can be driven by this pulsing background; at others, the guitar seems to be in control, allowing for subtle variations in mood that unfold more and more with subsequent listens. The dynamic between this push and pull is one of the special aspects that animates Lieu and makes it rise above lesser acts. Quiet simple on the surface, the magic of FaravelliRatti is in the surprising depth and subtlety of the worlds they weave together. We can only hope to see this collaboration sustained in the future.