Recorded at Giuseppe Ielasi’s studio in Monza outside of Milan over two days in February 2022, the seven pieces presented here continue the renewed exploration of the guitar that marks much of his solo work over the last few years. Emerging in the late 1990s as an improviser working primarily with prepared acoustic and electric guitars, the instrument became less prominent in his work over the next decade, ceding to loop-based constructs that would eventually split into abstracted takes on club music and hip-hop (including his work as Inventing Masks), on the one hand, and spectral electroacoustic explorations (such as the stunning triple disc 3 pauses), on the other. Returning to the guitar in recent years, he has approached the instrument as a source of shimmering metallic glissandi (Five Wooden Frames) or as the vehicle of elegiac double-tracked lines that feel almost like Frisell playing Feldman (The Prospect). Here the focus is on electric guitar filtered, looped, and splayed out into fields of irregular echoes through a bank of pedals.
Like many of Ielasi’s releases, Down On Darkened Meetings is structured as a set of short untitled pieces (here ranging between two and six minutes in length) that single-mindedly explore a single instrument or source throughout. The opening track immediately introduced the distinctive timbral world of fizzing, heavily filtered tones, chiming harmonics, and woozy looping bass figures inhabited throughout. At points it becomes near impossible to trace these sounds to the strings of an electric guitar; at others, as on the final two pieces, the instrument is unmistakable, as Ielasi builds up his shifting loops from snatches of almost unintentional sounding half-playing that give these closing tracks a hushed, private atmosphere reminiscent of Tolerance’s Anonym. While the repeating chords and hanging melodic figures present on many tracks call to mind earlier Ielasi classics like Gesine and Untitled, here the music feels less meticulously constructed than played: Ielasi’s lyrical guitar lines obscured by a battery of effects at times come across like a dilated take on the outer-fringe fretwork of improvisers like Henry Kaiser and Raymond Boni, and the muddy, asynchronous fields of pops and hiss at times wander into areas reminiscent of the hand-played dub techno of Vladislav Delay’s Multila.
Like much of Ielasi’s work in recent years, these seven pieces perform a delicate balancing act: between abstraction and immediacy, austerity and abundance. Imbued with Ielasi’s distinctive lightness of touch, considered approach to pacing, and subtly psychedelic approach to the stereo field, Down on Darkened Meetings is a major new work from a quiet master of contemporary experimental music.