(No=Fi Recordings, 2013)
Somewhere between the 1970s synth experiments of Antonio Vuolo & Elio Grande (what comes to mind is the excellent reissue of Desert released by Strut on last year’s Record Store Day) and the modern ambient compositions of bands like the Silk Road traveling Date Palms or even the epic drone of Mountains we find the heady beauty of Rainbow Island’s Road To Mirapuri. Experimental Italian label NO=FI Recordings released this latest cassette-only marvel, the most recent in a line of excellent jams from the psych-freak-out conglomeration. It’s two tracks. One on each side. Because it would be silly to discuss this work in any other way besides the two-part journey it’s meant to be digested as, I’m going to do just that. We start (at the beginning, duh) with side A’s “Rainbow Bridge,” replete with copious amounts of post-apocalyptic sci-fi madness. Imagine Zardoz taking place on the actual Rainbow Bridge from Mario Kart (It’s-a me! Mario! And I’m-a freaking out!). Driving synth lines (half Tangerine Dream, half John Carpenter) and distant vocal hints weave in and out of the turtle-shell fueled traffic. And before you can get your bearings, you find yourself floating out amongst the ether, paranoid arpeggiators closing in on you, oscillators detuned to madness blipping up around you. All the while hints of percussion tease you with the promise of beats that never fully materialize. Like the best kinds of dream sequences, it’s impossible to describe how you got from point A to point B, and you generally don’t realize you’ve gotten to point B until you’re already at point C.
Whereas side A has the chilly excitement of a sci-fi journey, side B’s “Mirapuri Lagoon” is concerned more with earthly voyages. Tabla drums and the cloying scent of incense and spices leave you feeling like you’ve just narrowly avoided eating “bad dates” with Indiana Jones. Dusty sunset on the horizon, eerie voices just out of reach of comprehension. More synth-driven beauty here, but nowhere near as “pretty” as the first half of our journey. This is you on the wrong side of the tracks in a foreign land. Scared and alone, every sight and smell a new experience. Perhaps you find yourself under the influence of a drug you don’t remember taking, every step through the ever-loudening marketplace a tournament in terror. “If I can just get back to my hotel alive,” you think to yourself, “I’m never leaving again.” But do you even have lodging? How did you get here? How long have you been here? Every face you avoid making eye contact with is one more person who is on to you. They are coming for you. You know it.
Ok, maybe that’s a little overly dramatic, but honestly this brief 20-minute album can’t help but put you in that kind of headspace. You’ve heard of guided meditation? This is like guided inebriation. An Epcot Center ride designed by Andrei Tarkovsky, Timothy Leary, and Salman Rushdie in tandem. A whip neck blur of jittering beauty and drawn-out brevity. Like always, coming down is the hardest part.
Kindred Spirits: Antonio Vuolo & Elio Grande, Date Palms, Mountains, Expo ’70