Grateful to find another album on my doorstep from the Romanian musician Somnoroase Păsărele, the first of which was a split I reviewed back in June. A quick glance at his discogs page reveals that Gili Mocanu (the true identity behind the project, I believe) is in the midsts of a second landmark year—he had six releases in 2016 and is on pace this year with four. DEMO comes by way of Portland, Oregon’s Never Anything Records. Have a look at their bandcamp page for a handsome collection of tape releases—the continuity in the album art alone has got me salivating.
Received a tip that DEMO’s sound was at least in part inspired by Spectralism, a French originated musical development from the 1970s whose focus was on the timbral properties of orchestral and acoustic music. The parameters of spectral music seem to be overly broad, and its definition vague—some even pegged it more of an aesthetic than a style. Many of the French composers seemed bound to a purely orchestral, post-modernist style, while the Romanian Spectralist’s, such as Iancu Dumitrescu, thought more outside the box. Dumitrescu’s work is sometimes reminiscent of Stockhausen and more to this reviewer’s taste than what I’ve heard from the French composers.
Gili studied under Dumitrescu and one can easily trace back the influence as DEMO’s two side-long pieces unfurl. The music within is a thick soup, densely woven but not so tight as to completely blur the edges of the individual layers. In a deconstructive sense, DEMO does possess orchestral qualities, like the way one can still single out instruments after a song has been slowed way down. That’s not to say this is somehow dreary, as it seems more appropriate to equate this music to a symphony unfolding inside a nightmare than to Yo-Yo Ma whilst drinking tea on a rainy afternoon. Yes, it’s quite dramatic, but the work’s relentlessness transforms the drama into a kind of elegant white noise.
The differences between Side A and Side B are rather inconsequential, and I get the impression that this was a deliberate move on Gili’s part as a way of harnessing the looped playback functionality of the cassette format—where, after a side has completed playback it automatically flips to the other side and starts playing. With this in mind a piece can hypothetically be designed to play forever. I don’t think Gili has thought that far but the steady-state nature of DEMO’s tracks makes the segregation between sides feel arbitrary. Nevertheless, there is a near-perfect balance struck, and I do think this works well as a tape. Certainly worth your time.