After a spectacular 2017 with “The Prelude To” series and a period of evaluation, Lost Tribe Sound have returned with their first release of the year with Italian duo of Roberto P Siguera and Attilio Novellino aka Luton. “Black Box Animals” is their debut album in a run of 200 cd’s in typical LTS high quality. According to the label “The album is a textural feast of classically composed phrasing and heavily tar-coated mechanics.Crawling abstract electronic structures meld seamlessly into a wide array of electro-acoustics, built upon a fine edge that is focused on mood as much as melody. With each piece Luton deliver their own curious venom, striving for contrast, never settling into a predetermined genre.” Siguera is a photographer and musician while Novellino has previously released on labels such as Oak Editions, Small Doses and Crónica.
Like the front cover artwork, this album is a cavernous work rooted in light, shade and textural pieces that traverse many a genre without fully settling in one and becoming musically restricted.
“Mount Kenya Imperial” opens the album with an eerie sound scape of fractured and clanging sounds, deep bass, string drones to create a post industrial-classical piece that hints at melancholy and mystique with the use of chimes. The drones haunt, arching across, metal bangs, guitars shimmer all the while creating a piece that is musically dense and rich, but managing to steer clear of becoming claustrophobic.
“Spectres of Mark” carries on the drone aspects of the opener, but in a minimal fashion with the music being more relaxed and gentler. There is a haunting aspect to the way the music has a feeling if hanging and flowing. It feels loop or section based that repeat in a step like fashion – going up and down. The violin that starts the piece off is almost transparent in its lightness, which sums up the track. Sonically it is light, but this is exactly what it needs to be. It’s very much a minimal piece that is perfectly formed.
“Södermalm Phantom Cab” Södermalm is a central island in Sweden and you get the first real taste of electroacoustic music and techniques in this travelogue of a piece. Opening with backwards, rumbling sounds, a recording of a car pulling up and the door opening before the car drives off, the music starts to swirl in tandem with the original backwards section. This creates an unsettling background section over which cello fills the sound with slow long bowed sections and a percussive sound which sounds like some string instrument being hit with sticks of some sort. The sound scape in the background is joined with a further swirling sound with the intensities peeking and overwhelming the music before subsiding. What sounds like a minimal bass section, the percussive guitar (?), a collection of drones and fractured sounds wind down the track.
“Eternal Now” field recordings, e-bow, string drones and minimal stark piano take the listener into a suspenseful sound scape with jazz touches and retro music charm. Such is the shame that the track only exists for just under two minutes as it feels that it is just about to pick up and lead you into a seedy opium den somewhere in a black and white noir film before the track suddenly ends, leaving you desiring more.
“Black Concrete” takes the listener into a territory not heard since the albums opener. Through a fusion of eerie drones, low rumbling bass notes, electroacoustic treatments, scratching metallic sounds, brass, electronics and zither to name a few, the listener is taken to a nightmare like sound scape. It feels like a mixture of post industrial sounds mixed with a middle eastern bazaar. The tone changes towards the end of the track with hints of drones, but this feels like a dense busy sonic tapestry.
“Archipelago” opening with guitar of a classical nature paired with sections of flowing drones to create a lyrical piece that veers into soundtrack territory of the past spy thrillers with its effective use of trumpet. The Luton Sinfionetta Orchestra as described in the press release, comes into the fore in the composition and playing of this track with its grand sweeping nature. As Novellino has worked with Rob Mazurek in the past and possibly his influence has rubbed off.
“Night Avalanche” slow broody cavernous drone unwind in circular broken up fashion punctuated by stabbing beats and long buzzing string drones. The music sounds like drones as in the bee sense. There is a submerged feeling like a fog is slowly lifting that shrouds the music. The track goes through processes where it is stripped back, but still sounding eerie right back to building up through layering sounds on top of each other and allowing elements to creep out, like the western sounding guitar test cascades across towards the end of the track.
“Elk Talk” buzzsaw strings meets guitars and hand percussion meet a collection of hard to decipher sound sources that create a track that feels improvised, but with a mood in mind. The strings sound stretched to the point of breaking and sound free form and played with a vicious intensity.
“Submergence” zither opens the track alongside dark bass rumbles, haunting ambience and echoing banging of something of wood. Cello announces a larger section with other string drones and electronics filling out the sound. You get the feeling of a cinematic piece with little dialogue full of dark emotions. Sounds jag and reverberate, cutting across the sound scape and leaving unsettling sounds in their wake. The mood is dangerous, but also introspective with a feeling of something bad is about to happen.
“Ice Museum” acoustic instruments welcome this track with an emphasis on space, darkness and light. The way the parts are mixed reveals an amazing depth and clarity. Cloaked piano lines falter in repetitive fashion, while sounds swirl around, sometimes flowing, other times broken up and manipulated. There is an environmental feel to some of the sounds like a gale is blowing. Towards the end of the track it becomes a bit more experimental in the positioning of elements, gradually leading to an almost crescendo, before fading away.
“Silent Fireworks” vibrating sounds and tensile drones meet minimal acoustic guitar that holds the melody. Broken electronics seep into the background like pulses of a dying machine. Cello brings in the mournful mood cutting across the sound with emphasis of holding the notes and wringing them dry. Lower level loops crawl into the sound adding another layer as well as snatches of percussion that give a feeling of some of Ben Frost’s work. The track finishes off with the addition of chimes and pulses of electronics and beats. The noticeable thing about the track is the depth of sound. The mixing (presumably done by Novellino as the press release mentions his finalization and ‘other worldliness’ of the material), and mastering by James Plotkin allow tracks like this to shine with their ability to highlight even the smallest element and make it stand out.
“Black Box Animals” is a remarkable debut in its ability to not be constricted by a single genre and also its sheer richness. For me the tracks work best when they are less experimental in their nature. For a record constructed, written and recorded in Sweden, Germany, UK and Italy, it could easily be a confused beast. However, this is a record where time and thought have been given to the music, its construction and it shows this in abundance. If you feel like exploring a world of sound, you won’t find better than Luton and “Black Box Animals”.