CD-R, Afe Records, 2007
Milanese artist Stefano Pulici is behind the ambiguously named a034. The project’s latest effort, titled “Chemical Nature,” however, leaves little doubt as to Pulici’s intentions and skill as a producer of edgy ambience and experimental electronic infusions. With an established interest and background in techno (i.e., tekno) production and live performance, the sound of a034 also draws from other influences in glitch, breakbeat, punk and power noise. According to the record label, the common trait of “Chemical Nature” is the use of sounds grabbed from natural sources in synthetic contexts. Recordings of diverse objects and substances, such as water, shells, stones, sand, wood, rubber and plastic, with contact-microphone methods formulate a key element in the music and serve to support its conceptual aesthetic. “Chemical Nature” is packaged with some first-rate artwork and graphics on its sleeve, and the mixed organic and tectonic forms therein are another appropriate indicator of the disc’s fused and manipulated content derivations. Overall well-produced and exceptionally effective, “Chemical Nature” should serve as an indication of Pulici’s talent, not to mention a harbinger of hopefully more good things to come from the a034 project.
The album begins with the intro track, “Digital Wind,” a scorching array of harsh extra-planetary data gales that soon gives way to the somber pacing, contrasting spaces and stomping breaks of “2 Many Words.” An early characterization of a034’s style appears here, for it is these selfsame heavily textured, sticky and intricate sounds, juxtaposed with empty forms and passages, that become further developed and diversified as the album progresses. Although the music on “Chemical Nature” remains suitably dark and even borderline neurotic, from the speed-glitch cadences of “Wireframe” to the slow crunching beats and wide atmospheres of “s34,” as well as the minimal drone expanses found on “No Time, No Space,” its gestalt embodies a certain patience and variety in structure and ambience that is both vital and curiously engaging. The integration of organic versus digital themes is critical to the aforementioned textured sound, especially in tracks such as the staccato-fueled “Drilling Stones” and the gradual waking consciousness of “Diapason.” Other notable composition points include the increasingly chaotic “Ice,” which includes strong organ and piano elements overlaid with classic breakcore rhythms, the bassline push-and-shove volumes and tonal richness of “Anamke,” and “Electrostatic,” whose repetitive acid lines and IDM feel lend the track an authentic old school treatment. Finally, “Mantra” is the lengthiest and most captivating piece on “Chemical Nature,” and includes, side by side, an Indian mantra and a Sufi chant, backed by traditional drums and a pristine exotic ambience that intends to draw its listener toward a heightened, infinite spiritual awareness.
— Dutton Hauhart