ILUITEQ – Soundtracks For Winter Departures.

“ILUITEQ is the ambient music project founded by Sergio Calzoni and Andrea Bellucci, renowned musicians of the Italian experimental scene, with several albums released under various monikers and bands (Orghanon, Colloquio, Red Sector A, Subterranean Source).

With the debut album «Soundtracks For Winter Departures» (2019 – TXT Recordings), the duo explores the many facets of ambient music, with a meticulous attention to sound design and smooth melodic arrangements. All the tracks have been conceived with a unique palette of sound timbres, making use of a wide range of sampling and synthesis techniques (granular, wavetable, FM, additive). The sound is further enhanced by parts of electric guitar, acoustic piano and field recordings.

Instilled by the colours of winter, the music seems to evoke the act of leaving for uncertain destinations, a collection of soundtracks for winter departures.”

With a name such as “The Arrival” you get what you were expecting. Cinematic weaving of ominous drones, micro electronics and prog synth influences weaving themselves into a soundscape that begs to be layered under vision of an alien craft landing in a deserted area, lined by trees and covered in mist and fog. The music is slow and somewhat cold, with the weighty drones building up tension, creating an atmosphere suited to a film like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. There is a keen balance between drones and the variety of electronics that tend to flutter lower in the mix. This allows the piece to be weighty, but also have depth and cues along the way to just where the album might take you.

“Burian” ushers in the feeling and themes that will be established over the next few tracks with glacial like calm, eerie tones that cover the music with a mysterious feel and electronics which add layers of abstraction. A ghostly landscape is created, but rather than a narrative, it feels like the music is trapped within a sphere and can’t break free.

“A Prayer for the Departed” after a lightly soaked glitchy beginning, what sounds like pencil scribbling on paper and melodic tone ripple outwards surrounded by large wall of lush drones and flickering guitars. While the previous track was contained, this one is unrestrained and is all about growing the melodies that are searching and reaching outwards. The more that the track moves, the more it evolves with multiple layers working together to create a rich and deep piece all with a gentle dub like pulse running through the centre.

“In Every Place” continues a travelogue style theme with a piece that starts with near silence and peaks in intensity, force and conviction just prior to the end, where it gently returns to whence it came. I say travelog because while it doesn’t have  a motorik beat behind it, you get the feeling like you are heading away from somewhere with the tone of the piece indicating that where you are travelling to, holds hope and a future. Constructed mostly of drones with hints of electronics, a horn like quality to the drone gives a real emotion to the piece as the ambience swirls and you can picture yourself looking out of a window and the passing scenery as it becomes a coloured blur of trees, fields and roads. The balance of pace, peaks and troughs gives of a very measured feel, like a smooth, relaxed journey enabling you to soak everything up.

“Returning After Leaving” it’s interesting in just how the subtleties of tone, melody or pace can have on a piece of music. While the previous track felt like moving in a positive direction, this track led by the title, feels like in a way, the prodigal son returning home to a fractured  relationship. The music has a very melancholic core running through the glacial quality of the drones, with the drones themselves being long with a certain amount of weight which translates the feelings of possibly guilt or embarrassment, maybe even shame.By the middle of the track small glimpses of home find their way in alongside gentle pulses of electronics, while the ambient drones are gentler and clear. The final passages balances this light ambience with fragments of the darker tones of the beginning to indicate that maybe while a reconciliation is on the cards, there is still a lot of water to go under the bridge before things return to normal.

“Lux Ephemeral” this is the type of piece that reminds me of Eno’s “An Ending (Ascent)”. It has that pure floating ambient feel, the type of music that is unmoored and forever searching and moving. Waves of ambience flow over each other with a hint of a howl giving it a stormy quality. Guitar parts increase the ambience with contemplative sounds that are essentially the icing on the cake. It’s this type of ambience that I find attractive as it can alter your mood and feelings at the time and bring in a sense of calm to any situation.

“The Sea at Night” constructed using a hazy ambient base with textures that resonate of it, there is a mixture of slight dread mixed in with exploratory soundscapes. It returns the listener to a cinematic environment like the album’s opener “The Arrival” brought forth, with the way the synth ambience is layered to build tension and mystique,  giving a sonic equivalent to exploring a bit of a forbidden world. The music never goes over the top, exercising restraint , but lets the listener know that all is not calm and best to be aware of what is lurking around.

“No Longer Know” this piece relies on repetitive passages that flow over each other and swirl in a circular fashion. Three distinct layers operate at the start, a darkish windswept drone, a low-level bass rumble and a ghostly cold drone. The way these layers interact is the key to setting the tone of the piece and balances the music nicely. From this beginning the track then moves to a more stark and ghostly version with fractured electronics and noise providing a different texture, while the drones are also affected by a static noise that coats them. We then move back to the original intro, but this time now the music has increased in-depth and scope to include some of those elements from its second movement. Sometimes artists can overpower their music with too many elements or changes within sections. For this piece ILUITEQ maintain the core or heart of the piece  but also alter it in a way that is never over the top or forced. They build on the piece, return to its origin, but also make sure that it is an ever evolving and engaging work.

“Springtime Return” the albums finale sees the duo expand their instrumentation which leads to a different beast, one which balances the more electronic touches with piano and guitar. The tone of the piece sees more light shining which seems to be no coincidence when you think of the season mentioned in the title. The moving from the cold , dark winter through to warmer days with more sun is reflected in the openness of the music. Fusing a modern classical feel to the Ambient/electronica shows a different side to the duo. While the color and shade of the piece is lighter and more open, the use of the piano and guitar adds an introspective touch that alongside the almost chugging electronics, gives a feeling of things that have that have passed. The layers of drones also add to the mood of the piece with a feeling of cleansing happening and moving through to a new season allowing for fresh beginnings.

Initially I suspected this album would flirt between the cinematic, prog synth / Sci-fi and pure ambience styles (all with a heavy electronic influence). “The Arrival” hinted at such possibility. In a way it was a bit of a red herring as while the cinematic and electronic influences are there, this is more a pure ambient album. It’s success revolves around this purity with the other elements being used to expand its sound and make it multi dimensional. On the album Calzoni and Belluci prove they truly understand the essence of how an ambient album works. Everything from the structure, pace, texture, tone, layering and sound design shows what is needed to create album that not only engages with the listener, but can transport them to different places. “Lux Ephemeral” is the worth price of admission alone. Recommended .

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