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Of all the historic labels associated with experimental music, few have garnered as much affection, or as devoted a following, as the Italian imprint Cramps. Its catalog reads like a who's who of the 1970s musical avant-garde, housing seminal albums by John Cage, Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, Giusto Pio, Demetrio Stratos, Juan Hidalgo, Robert Ashley, Walter Marchetti, Cornelius Cardew, Raul Lovisoni / Francesco Messina, Alvin Lucier, Derek Bailey, and so many more, the vast majority of which have remained largely out of print and nearly impossible to obtain for decades. Now, at long last, the Milan based imprint, Dialogo, has begun a stunning series of vinyl reissues from Cramps' Nova Musicha series - dedicated to contemporary avant-garde composers - beginning with Costin Miereanu’s Luna Cinese, originally released in 1975. Fully remastered and housed in a sleeve that beautifully reproduces the album’s signature design, complete with brand a new English translation of the original liner notes, this is a truly historic event.
For its impact, Cramps was a relatively short-lived endeavor, running for roughly seven years between 1973 and 1980. Founded in Milan by the producer, publisher, and graphic designer, Gianni Sassi - publisher of counter-cultural magazines like Bit and Frankenstein, and the designer behind numerous covers for Bla Bla, including Franco Battiato's Fetus and Pollution - Cramps was the pitch perfect emblem of revolutionary Italian temperaments of its era; creatively radical, globally minded, without profit motive, and bridging numerous musical idioms, from progressive rock and jazz, to some of the most forward thinking and singular expression of sonic experimentalism the world has ever seen.
Of all the seminal figures that recorded for Cramps, the Romanian / French composer, Costin Miereanu, remains among the most distinct and under-appreciated. The reemergence of his debut LP, Luna Cinese, issued by the label in 1975, will likely change that.
Over the last decade or so, Miereanu has developed something of a cult following among experimental fans because of his stunning series of albums issued during the 1980s on his own Poly-Art imprint, skirting the border of ambient music and minimalism in highly individual ways. Luna Cinese, which dives into far more explicitly experimental territory, will undoubtedly be a revelation and expose the true underpinnings of the work that would begin to emerge of the next decade and a half.
During his early years, Costin Miereanu was something of a wunderkind of avant-garde and experimental music. Born in Bucharest, between 1960 to 1966 he was a student of Alfred Mendelsohn, Dan Constantinescu, and Lazar Octavian Cosma, before moving to Paris where he earned a Doctor of Letters and a Doctor of Musical Semiotics, winning numerous prizes in writing, analysis, music history, esthetics, orchestration, and composition. Between 1967 and 1969 he was a student of Karlheinz Stockhausen, György Ligeti, and Ehrhard Karkoschka at the Internationale Ferienkurse für neue Musik in Darmstadt, laying the final groundwork for a stunning career as both a composer and noted academic over the years since, often combining techniques drawn from Satie with the abstraction of Romanian traditional music into a sonic fabric that is guided by systems associated with Musique concrète.
Luna Cinese, issued as the composer's debut LP by Cramps in 1975, is a stunning combination of all these elements. The work - stretching across the album's two sides, consists of continuous low-density repetitions, build from what the composer describes as “the kind of 'woven' silence you find on mountains – occasionally disturbed by irregular and very dense insertions – the kind of intense noise you find in the city.” The result, combining a vast range of environmental sound, voices chattering in various languages, fragments of acoustic instrumentation, and the pulsing and ambiences of synths and electronics, is about as singular and beautiful as experimental works from the 1970s come, while never for a moment sacrificing rigour or tension.
A truly stunning, interwoven sonic expanse that lays pregnant with multiple meaning and interpretations - conceived by the composer to illuminate the complex ways in which meaning and narrative are constructed across time - and imbued with surrealism and the 'schizoid', Luna Cinese stands as an entirely distinct and original gesture within the canon of experimental music, displaying a remarkable density, while open, airy, and encouraging the subjectivity of the listener to play an active part.
Easily among the best and important works from the original Cramps catalog, but sinfully overlook over the years since its release, Luna Cinese is as good as they come and an absolutely riveting and immersive listen. Issued by Dialogo in this newly remastered vinyl edition - the first since 1975 - with its original liner notes by Miereanu in a brand-new English translation, this one is impossible to recommend enough and will leave the composer ringing in your mind for a long time to come.