A hypnotic demonstration of improvisation, and an ode to the free-jazz and DIY cultures the two artists rose from, Cupo ultimately becomes an object of intuition that marks both a turning point and coming together of two of London’s most imaginative figures. Cupo, the debut collaborative album by London based producer/percussionist Valentina Magaletti and enigmatic artist Laila Sakini, deploys an orchestra-sized ensemble of instruments thru dub, ambient, modern classical, and effortlessly experimental modes.
Initiated under a title meaning ‘dark’ in Italian, Cupo sees the dynamic worlds of Magaletti and Sakini merge, overlap and subsequently expand, together traversing new shadowy grounds and supernatural, static situations. Sakini ravels together trumpet, flute, harmonica, recorder, vocals, bass, strings and piano to deliver her melancholic and cryptic odes, while Magaletti adds acoustic guitar, Italian spoken word, bongos, bass, and drums, pitched down to match the sunken swag of Sakini. The album also features trumpet played by YL Hooi.
The project sprung to life after Magaletti, versatile drummer-composer for a myriad projects including Moin, Tomaga, Holy Tongue and CZN, asked Sakini, responsible for a series of plaintive works on A Colourful Storm, Boomkat, Total Stasis, to contribute to an album that quickly developed into a separate project in its own right. The direction of the record unfolds much like the development of a new union/friendship, at times reserved and suggestive - other times bold and assertive, eventually resounding in proud unison - a force greater than one artist could deliver alone. This allowance for alchemy and individual space results in a series of 10 linked movements which sees the pair play with space and intensity: dense, mechanical elements are stretched and softened to form sparse, barely sunlit scenes, with scattered whispers and melodic hints popping out from the rich sonic landscape that comprises of 20 odd instruments, recorded in a variety of settings across London.
The restraint of instrumentation in Cupo defines the moods as much as the palette: thick, industrial street scenes with menacing panned trumpets and metallic percussion that sounds like cars, traffic, glass and danger is ameliorated by carefree harmonica, soft cymbals, honkytonk piano and acoustic guitar that speaks of tumbleweed, easy times and air. The forlorn parts of the 37 minute long record sticky-tape these worlds together to form a middle ground that is reasonable, relatable and subsequently resonant in an unsuspectingly poignant way.