Giuseppe Ielasi

Häpna H.21, CD
6 tracks, 31 minutes
Listen to: “track #4”
Reviews of “Gesine”
Release date: February 22, 2005

New solo work from this Italian experimental guitarist and electronic musician. Known for his solo work (his first solo cd, ‘Plans’, was released on Sedimental in 2003), his collaborations with Dean Roberts and for various collaborations in more improvised contexts. These six pieces are all made up of guitar and percussion in different forms, sometimes electronically treated, but in a very organic manner. Drones, guitar techniques derived as much from folk as the experimental music field, and a calm, haunting atmosphere make up the basis for this beautiful album.

More info about Giuseppe at http://www.bowindorecordings.com/artists/ielasi.html

Tracks: 6 untitled tracks

“The acoustic guitar is the closest thing to a fetish object in music: put one in the right hands, and that person can conjure the dead. The spirits of old Delta bluesmen, Appalachian front-porch strummers, and folk troubadors live in a guitar’s wooden hole. Taut strings prevent the spirits’ escape, but strum those strings just right, and they’ll fly out howling.

Giuseppe Ielasi feels these spirits, and in Gesine, he dedicates himself to freeing them. But he wants to do so without reliving the past—a tricky task. Every back-to-basics finger-picker since Fahey rehashes the same blues chords, limiting themselves artistically and weakening the power of the originals with each imitation. Ielasi’s not having it.

His approach is different. Ielasi’s background in experimental guitar and electro-acoustic improv circles affords him an opportunity to capture that old time sound in a modern context, blending time periods together so that the folk doesn’t sound like a museum piece and the electronics don’t sound like a gimmick.

The first of the six untitled pieces on the album (the untitled tracks are the only traces of electro-acoustic pretension here) amounts to something of a mission statement for Ielasi. A single twanging note sounds in isolation, followed a couple seconds later by another from somewhere far off, and then another a little closer and another closer still, as if the notes are converging like night-walking strangers to line up and form a melody. Some light gum-chew clicks then chatter, providing just the rhythm for the embryonic melody that’s still struggling to form from the straggling notes. A high harmonica-like drone eases over the piece, complementing both the bluesy tone of the guitar and the electronic percussion. Finally the gum-chewing gives way to the muted bump of live drumming, the drone ebbs, and the piece ends as it began, the melody falling away until only the ragged plucked string of the opening remains.

The composition feels strangely timeless, despite its cutting edge techniques. I pictured a fedora-sporting bluesman playing idly in the studio while an engineer readied the wax cylinders. I also pictured Giuseppe—bald-headed, bag-eyed, and lit in laptop blue—putting the final touches on the piece at home. Ielasi burrows to the core of folk guitar, to the soul of the sound, and such a leap over time and space is but a small effort for a soul.

The next two pieces are successful excursions into Loren Connors ambient-guitar land, but they suffer greatly in proximity to the fourth track on the album (as does most of the music I’ve heard in recent days). Here Ielasi returns with another slice of electronicized proto-folk. And this one indulges in some melodic prettiness—think an earthier, less static-laden Fennesz. A high-frequency whine electrifies the track throughout while several multi-tracked guitars try to cough up a creaky melody. Guitars pile up, and the cacophony threatens to overwhelm, when suddenly one guitar an octave higher than the rest drops in and dictates a gorgeous melody that dominates the track. While this melody grows stronger, scrapes and scratches multiply in both channels—the sound of fingers on guitar strings. It’s as if the legendary musicians trapped in Ielasi’s guitar are no longer channeling just their sound, but their bodies as well, their callused fingers and palms for his record. The melody takes a few surprising twists (something Fennesz could try sometime), and the piece ends with your jaw on the floor.
While I’ve only described a couple tracks, let me assure you that the rest, while not too similar to these two stylistically, are similarly great. One could complain that the album is too short at thirty-one minutes, but that’s what the repeat button is for.”
Rated A-, Bryan Berge, Stylus Magazine

“Ielasi's last solo record Plans is an overplayed favorite of mine and one that marked quite a departure from the artist's past work as a featherweight improv stylist, a miner of hidden textures and master of the infinitesimal dynamic. Plans was a grandiose electroacoustic collage largely avoiding Ielasi's tradmark guitar which appeared only at the beginning and end of the piece, resolving the brief flights of lyricism able to tilt the disparate currents of the whole toward a slow expanse of weightless, melancholic bliss. Gesine marks the return of the guitar as dominant voice, this time a rarely-treated almost acoustic sound occupying a far more subdued setting. Backed only by finger-snap-size percussion, a few earth-toned hums and feedback drones, the instrument enters within the already charged atmosphere of the bedroom where the lowest relief or incidental amplifies to the potential hinge for a song's drama. Ielasi's guitar drops like ink in water suspension, coloring and adding sculpture to the backdrop's warm restlessness. His figures, though, are not fixed, meandering instead across a ghostly and ascetic blues, very much in the MazzaCane Connors or Charalambides realm and with a similar hidden complexity. Close listening provides that Ielasi has in many cases, quadruple-tracked his guitar, two of its clones doing a mirror-walk on the scratchy surface level blues patterns while two more layer harmonic overtones beneath. These under-layers take on a degree of sterility in their arrangement and inhuman constancy, pulling Gesine further from the golden antebellum views of Connors and the C-bides and closer to the disquieted atmospherics of Ielasi's fellow Italian and Viennese improvisers. By the fifth of the six tracks, background and foreground have coalesced into a dual-stranded dagger of whining feedback, a slow black-out of Gesine's intimate texture that leaves only the drowsy, given-up plucking of the sixth track to map out a final hesitancy. The 30 minute disc is simply one more beautifully packaged and recorded release from Ielasi, the above only one reading of music whose inflated miniatures and subtle guitar anti-heroics require many more.”
Andrew Culler, Brainwashed

“[...] Men varje gång jag lyssnar på "Gesine", Giuseppe Ielasis nya skiva, tas min kropp över av total lycka. Något som kanske kan tyckas konstigt om jag berättar att "Gesine" bland annat går ut på dova drones, sporadiskt plockade gitarrer och stämningar lyfta från natten och hamnområden. Akter som Radian, Trapist och Keith Fullerton Whitman kan användas som referenspunkter men Giuseppe är sin egen man.”
Rated 7/10, Johan Jacobsson, Sonic