Somnambule - Writing About Music

Sinistri ~ Free Pulse

Who could resist a cd whose cover bears a sticker stating ‘Nonmetric music by ex-Starfuckers’? Perusal of the group’s website, however, reveals that this is less confession of past proclivities than a reference to their previous moniker. Sinistri declare an interest in asynchrony and nonmetric rhythms. The will to symmetry is strong, but on the evidence of Free Pulse, Sinistri’s desire to resist it is stronger still. Sinistri are an Italian quartet comprised of guitarist Manuele Giannini, drummer Roberto Bertacchini, turntablist, computer operator Alessandro Bocci and the realtime processing and sampling skills of Dino Bramanti. The music they produce is both idiosyncratic and rooted in the rock tradition articulated by Manuele Giannini’s guitar which growls and snaps like a frustrated tiger. His tone is attractively raw, with a vibrant electric quality not a million miles from John McLaughlin’s sound on Miles Davis’s Live-Evil. In fact, the overall impression of Sinistri’s music is of 1970s Miles sliced and diced until all that remains are tiny slivers.

Everything about the first track, “Smooth Fried Tk 2”, is a-stutter. Snares hiss and fizz like unwanted static electricity to create fidgety (a-)rhythms in which microscopic gaps open to allow Giannini space to improvise. Second track “Bluesplex Pt 1” continues in the same vein, but its titular blue chords highlight the irregular grid applied to the track’s form like a random cookie cutter slicing through dough. The music continues in like fashion, febrile and blasted. The contributions of the turntablist and sampler are initially difficult to spot, but they’re gradually spied as irregular bass pulses or wavering background sounds. Still, much of the proceedings read as a guitar/drum duet glancingly reminiscent of the work of Gary Smith or Powerfield – at times there’s even something of Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic simultaneity. The stop/start form of the first few tracks is slowly revealed to be the norm and needs to be assimilated as a modus operandi for the music’s form to become clear. Hard work, but rewarding.
Colin Buttimer
March 2005
Published by The Wire