If you dabble in the small-world subculture of analog and modular synths, Alessandro Cortini is difficult to avoid. The Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist posts on the message boards, appears in the documentaries, and turns up at conventions repping for popular modular designers like Make Noise and Verbos. A member of Nine Inch Nails since the late 2000s, he’s earned a certain amount of mainstream alt-rock visibility, but there’s a substantial portion of his audience that likely found out about him by watching YouTube videos in which he monkeys around electronic unobtanium like the Buchla 700.
Alessandro Cortini tends to surround himself with darkness. The Italian producer is most infamous as a torturer of modular synths and other bleak electronics for Los Angeles’ most famous industrial-goths, Nine Inch Nails. His previous solo LP, Sonno, slinked out on Prurient’s Hospital Productions — a bastion of the crepuscular, if there ever was one.
On his second full-length of 2015, electronic composer Alessandro Cortini demands a state of surrender. Risveglio is not background music, though it’s quiet, repetitive, and wordless. It invites you into a way of listening that’s a little like marveling at architecture: Everything follows structural patterns, and the beauty happens in the subtle deviations from rigid form.
One of the most unlikely moments of musical philosophy surely comes from the mouth of Peep Show's Super Hans when, while pressing a bass synth note, he utters the immortal line, "remember, the longer the note, the more dread." And of course he's right. Ambient music has long utilised the idea of drones and sustained notes to invoke such feelings. Like the musical equivalent of the Deleuzeian time-image, the long drone highlights the breakdown of sound that's organised by rhythms and movement, creating in its place a sense of memory and history, with the pitch and timbres of the sound opening and unfolding to our ears.