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Donato Dozzy: One Instrument Sessions 05

Donato Dozzy: One Instrument Sessions 05

Dozzy is one of those artists who was unfortunate enough to make an opus against which all their later work is measured

Donato Dozzy: One Instrument Sessions 05

3.25 / 5

One Instrument is a label, run by a Dutch-Italian musician named Aimée Portioli, that puts out recordings made on only one instrument. Most of its efforts are by little-known avant-gardists, are named after the instruments, and seem to have been made more for the love of the instrument and its sound than for the love of music. That’s not a bad thing: the recordings have a desirable purity. But leave it to Donato Dozzy to run wild with these restraints.

Dozzy, the Italian producer born Donato Scaramuzzi, is comfortable in a single-instrument setting. Most of his albums this decade could’ve come out on Portioli’s label, be it a record made entirely from an obscure Italian mouth harp or the vocals of Anna Caragnano. Here he picks up the EMS Synthi AKS, a weird old synth most widely heard as the source of Pink Floyd’s paranoid tunnel-vision instrumental “On the Run.”

One Instrument Sessions 05 sounds less like “On the Run” than Suzanne Ciani’s Buchla concerts, or any other recording that exploits the synth’s ability to make a lot of weird noises at once. This is not music about melody and harmony but squiggles, squishes, chirps, squeaks, buzzes, hums, clangs and bangs. It’s a guy fucking around for the better part of 40 minutes.

There’s a distinct arc to the improvisation that makes it easy to listen to. It starts out with tasteful white noise before Dozzy gives himself permission to get crazy with the knobs, finally cooling down with minutes of ambient drone. It’s a common structure for ambient pieces of this length – the experience of listening to this album is not unlike that of Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Glass – but one that gives it more rhyme and reason than if he were twiddling knobs at random.

The two pieces are called “Slow Train” parts one and two, which is no doubt what Dozzy would’ve called the album if not for the label’s strict branding. But it’s best not to think of trains or even of synths but to simply let the sounds wash over you like a massage. There’s something about the weirdest and wettest sounds a synth can conjure that really works on the brain, and that’s really the reason to come to this album.

Dozzy is one of those artists who was unfortunate enough to make an opus against which all their later work is measured: Voices from the Lake, recorded with Neel, who’s also recorded for One Instrument. This is an ambient-techno song cycle, 11 tracks long with each one flowing into the next, that seems to emerge from some primordial soup and disappear beneath its surface with a swampy gurgle; it’s one of the best electronic albums of the last 10 years.

Dozzy hasn’t really tried to match its scope and success, so holding his later work against it is futile. But more of what made that album great carries over here than on anything else he’s made since: an organic sponginess, an intoxication with pure sound, and a sense of a story – however abstract – being told.

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