Caligine is, to all intents and purposes, the brainchild of one man although,as Gabriele de Seta loves playing with other people, he prefers to define the project more as a collective than a solo act. He’s an Italian who, for the past two years, has mainly divided his time between the Netherlands and China.
Having begun in 2007 by experimenting with harsh noise and found sounds on two volumes entitled Minimalia, Caligine’s new album Anomia Mediterranea is a more luminous and melodic collection of contaminated folk music.
The title track has spoken words (in Italian) that are all but drowned out by insistent drones and there’s even a brief hint of Carmina Burana in there if you listen carefully. These inserts make the musical journey so much more interesting, it’s as if each track begins with the intention of taking a direct line from A to B, then gets drawn to a sound or idea that lies a little off the beaten track.
The longest piece on the album, all 12 minutes and 26 seconds worth, is entitled ‘Cani di Paglia Divorano Tigri di Cartapesta’ which roughly translates as ‘straw dogs devour paper maché tigers’. This surreal ,even faintly savage, imagery belies the lyricism of the instrumental track where a rustic acoustic guitar has elements of Jack Rose’s work with Pelt in which traditional folk becomes gradually corroded by complimentary elements.
Other tracks make me think of Czech poet-musician Vladimir Vaclavek, self-styled neo-folk guru David Tibet and Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny. In addition, a brief piece of improvised acoustic guitar (Blitris) sounds like an homage to Derek Bailey.
There’s a beguiling, dream-like quality to it all but just in case you get too entranced by these hazy un-folk textures, it ends with 丹田, an eleven minute blast of heavy feedback/reverb that wouldn’t be out of place on a Keiji Haino album.
Having heard and become intrigued and entranced by this album I wanted to learn more about what sounds and thoughts inspired it.Gabriele de Seta very kindly agreed to answer some questions via email.
The Q & A went as follows:
Who or what is Caligine?
Being constantly on the move, I had no means of maintaining a stable line-up so essentially by the time I started to play weird folk tunes as Caligine I realized that it would never be a solo project because, everywhere I was, someone would join or at least inspire or make the music possible. So, even if on some records it’s just me messing around with instruments, they do in fact contain a lot of other people as background voices, accidental noises, memories, stories.
I stopped updating Discogs so this site only lists Emanuele Casto and Daniele Caramanna for their contribution to the Minimalia volumes back in 2007 and 2008. In fact Emanuele also played on Nebbie during our time together in China, and Daniele played drums with me again in 2009 for the song “Punto d’Ariete”. Besides them, there’s quite a lot of other people who belong to the family, having joined me in different times for live shows or recordings. I’ll probably collect a comprehensive list of all of them one day.
Who plays on Anomia Mediterranea?
I recorded it back in Summer 2010. I had a couple of months of holiday in Rome, I was tired of improvisation and I wanted to get some more structured songs down on record. I played most of the album by myself, but it also features found sounds and drones by my friend Bessemerr, and my dad on flute.
Recently, I have been working on some improvised material with two great Chinese guitar players and some other friends that will be out soon on Nothing Out There as a double CD, sealing off another phase of more free-form composition…
How should listeners interpret the fact that the album begins with an Italian resistance song and ends with what sounds like a Chinese folk tune? What influences your choice of samples/found sounds?
Well, listeners should interpret it as they please I guess… I chose the version of “Sul Ponte di Perati” that Pasolini put in Salò because I love how it sounds: a resistance song sung by decadent fascists, like some form of dejected irony or lazy mockery. The Chinese tune at the end of the album actually comes from a Hong Kong movie (which interestingly enough predates my moving here), that I chose because it is played on a gramophone in the movie, and eventually the characters interrupt it and bring the fiction back to itself… I love the idea of sound devices in movies, layered with the movie soundtrack and interacting with it, and I like playing with this layering, throwing some intuitions in and seeing what kind of combinations come out: the result is often much more than the sum of its parts. I never thought of samples as homages to cinema or specific movies, or to any specific aesthetic agenda – in fact, I did not sample from the movies themselves but from the act of watching them and suddenly liking how they sounded. Most of the samples I choose also come from the habit to carry around a recorder and allow myself to be late to appointments just to record whatever catches my ears. It is something I practiced a lot in my early attempts at noise stuff, and it has now become a normal mode of movement that keeps filling my field recordings folder with materials for countless records.
In one interview you said that the debut release Minimalia begins with noise and ends with peace. Would it be fair to say Anomia Mediterranea begins with peace and ends with noise?
Minimalia is a weird thing, it reflects a period in which I was experimenting with harsh noise and I thought it would have been interesting to see what noise would be like if it was coming from an acoustic setup. It definitely begins with full-blown noise, that we then try to control and shape into a sort of non-folk, or a folk structure with no traditional roots.
I still plan to continue the Minimalia series with a volume three and four, so to complete the year cycle of its song titles and then maybe re-release them as a collection.
As for Anomia Mediterranea, I actually see it more as a sort of circling album: a droning guitar slowly submerges the choir in the first song, and then comes back just in the end to close the album with a proper drone piece. I thought of the album in this way from the beginning, I wanted it to be a sort of weird collection of anomic acid folk ramblings contained in the thick and secure warmth of fuzzy guitars – that’s also the sort of image that comes to my mind with I think of the Mediterranean sea.
How do your surroundings affect the music? What places inspired the new set of songs?
Surroundings affect music a lot. They of course inspire and populate recordings with different found sounds and background hums, but they also impact the music in a physical way. I recorded Ter and Anomia Mediterranea in my house in Rome, with all my (rather cheap) equipment and the time to do a proper production. Other albums like L’Autunno di Rame, Nebbie or Verbi e Riverberi were recorded far from home, in hotel rooms and live settings, with barely enough equipment and a streamlined, stripped-down production. This is good, I think, because they sound clean – sometimes overblown because I mixed them through cheap headphones, sometimes too thinly because I didn’t have any good recorder on me, but still straightforward and immediate. Anomia Mediterranea was not inspired by any particular place, but for sure there are a lot of places that contributed to it: I would say evenings in Greece as a child, luminous nights in Rome, bone-chilling days in Shanghai, the Bolsena lake and Salerno, where I recorded a cat that didn’t know how to speak.
How did you find A Beard Of Snails records, or did they find you?
I got in touch with them through friends. I always find it very hard to get stuff published: after a big craze of underground labels around the early 2000s, the last years have been pretty depressing, as most labels are overburdened with releases or do not accept demos from project they don’t know personally. I don’t really have much time to build stable relationships with labels or other musicians and get into local scenes, so I’m glad that Christian (from A B o S) liked the album and decided to publish it. In fact he liked it so much that we are also featured on the Bearded Snailscompilation and a 7’’ split single is in the works…
Is there anything else people should know before listening to the new album?
Well, I was chatting with High Wolf some weeks ago about labels and releases and the constant change in one’s own music, and there’s one point we agreed immediately: the moment you finalize one record and listen back to it, you can already feel how different it is from the stuff you’re composing in that moment or the music you would like to work on the day after – it sort of slips out of your hands. Amplify that for more than two years… I love listening to Anomia Mediterranea but at the same time it feels like a record by someone else, a collection of songs that I somehow wrote, played, sung and recorded, without remembering how I did it. In the meantime, much more has happened, and part of it will most likely appear in the next years in different releases and on different labels. It is always a kind of delayed communication, a voice from years ago, filtered by the work of many hands, bouncing across weird geographical lines, and finally reaching a bunch of ears. I guess listeners don’t need to actually bother about all of this – if they like the sounds, the trick worked.
Anomia Mediterranea by Caligine is out now on the Danish label : A Beard of Snails (ABOS3-061).