Posted on Aug 31st 2012 01:23 am
Everything on this records, from the Vaughan Oliver-designed artwork to the music, atmosphere and contributors, is imbued with the spirit of mid-eighties 4AD, more specifically Ivo Watts-Russell’s seminal This Mortal Coil. The project of Sardinia-born and bred Stefano Guzzetti, Waves On Canvas presents an intriguing blend of ethereal art pop and electronica which, following a handful of self-released digital albums and EPs, has landed a spot on Dublin-based Psychonavigation for his full length debut.
Into The Northsea pays a reverent homage to the shaded cinematic atmospheres of This Mortal Coil, and to 4AD’s often enigmatic and beautifully crafted releases. Indeed, Guzzetti’s recent single Angel, which is included here, features a vocal contribution from Louise Rutkowski, who was present on both This Mortal Coil’s Filigree & Shadow and Bloodalbums and who went on to become a member of Watts-Russell’s follow up project The Hope Blister, and the track was given a complete makeover by John Fryer, who engineered and produced many of the label’s releases in the eighties and nineties. Completing the 4AD connection, the album also features contributions from former Clan Of Xymox member Pieter Nooten (Frozen) and Pale Saints’ Ian Masters (Starfish). Also contributing are vocalists Françoise Lacroix (Voix Dans Une Voix), Yvette Winkler (with Nooten on Frozen), and Irene Nonnis on the stunning In My Dream.
It would however be foolish to reduce Waves On Canvas to a simple This Mortal Coil pastiche. The clair-obscure ambiences and juxtaposition of genres certainly heavily references Watts-Russell’s project and vision, but Guzzetti brings his own touch through delicate electronic touches, rhythmic sequences and widescreen production. It often feels as if Guzzetti is simply taking advantage of the opportunity given to him of working with some of the people who have inspired him, and he returns the favour by providing them with a fitting soundtrack.
Those familiar with TMC will undoubtedly find the delicate Twenty Years a comfortable setting, and the swelling strings, sweeping melody and vocal performance on Angel or the touching piano-led Frozen or In My Dream will do nothing to dispel this feeling, but onFlowers Of The Sea, Guzzetti tempers the mood the piece by adding glitches and a stuttering beat and by progressively distorting his acoustic sound sources, a process which he repeats on Voix Dans Une Voix to rather impressive effect. Equally, Stella resonates with shimmering celestial electronics underpinned by a discreet but constant drum pulse as swirls of strings are layered in between. Later on, Guzzetti casts a delicate ambient tone on She’s Going To Leave, while other instrumental pieces A Dedication, Pure and Here And Away combine wonderfully rich string work, electronic soundscapes and micro-beats in a rather convincing fashion.
So ingrained with This Mortal Coil aesthetic is this record that it is somewhat difficult to fully appreciate exactly how Stefano Guzzetti’s vision shapes up, but regardless, Into The Northsea is a rather impressive debut, served by refined orchestrations, production and songwriting, which deserves to appreciated for just that.
Step Right Up: Waves On Canvas
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
I was first introduced to Waves on Canvas by a 7″ vinyl single entitled, ‘Angel’. The song features vocals by Louise Rutkowski of This Mortal Coil fame. ‘Angel’ is a love song set to a swirling symphony of strings that is utterly emotive. Rutkowski sings ‘For you I can feel emotions I have never felt’ amidst a glorious sound of strings, piano and ambient soundscape. This was a taster for Waves on Canvas’ full length album ‘Into The Northsea’ which is now available on Dublin based Psychonavigation Records. The album artwork (as well as the ‘Angel’ single) was done by the legendary Vaughan Oliver whose work adorns many iconic 4AD album sleeves. As the artwork suggests, this album is quite special. A set of beguiling music from start to finish, Waves on Canvas crosses ambient, classical and electronic genres. For fans of music labels such as Type, Touch, Erased Tapes, Fat Cat etc, Waves on Canvas is certainly for you.
Waves on Canvas is the pseudonym for Italian musician Stefano Guzzetti who was born in Sardinia. At the age of 9, he fell in love with Bach’s organ works and decided to start taking organ lessons. A short while later, his love affair with electronica music began after receiving a computer as a gift. Inspired by Kraftwerk, he soon begun programming sounds and noises. It is these sounds and noises found on ‘Into The Northsea’ years later that has pushed the envelope of classical and electronica music. The album opener ‘Twenty Years’ is a perfect film score piece of piano music. It is mournful with a gorgeous texture. The piano melody is reminiscent of luminaries such as Dustin O’ Halloran and Max Richter. ‘Flowers Of The Sea’ is a dreamy haze of electronic glitches, warm beats and bright keyboards and xylophone. The piece recalls childhood and evokes a wave of nostalgia that a flood of memories would bring. This could be Ulrich Schnauss and the sound of shoegaze electronica.
‘Starfish’ continues in the same vein but more indie pop than shoegaze. The strumming acoustic guitar and electronic loops creates a psychedelic sound amidst the vocals of Ian Masters. Panda Bear and Atlas Sound spring to mind. ‘Stella’ consists of blissed out ambient soundscapes. Subtle layers of electronic tweaking is heard throughout and the eerie strings provides one of ‘Into The Northsea’ finest moments. ‘Voix Dans Une Voix’ as the title suggests is a French spoken word piece. This is my standout track. Lacroix’ spoken word is mesmerizing. The warm fuzz of beats and swirling guitars creates the perfect backdrop to her formidable French spoken word. ‘Frozen’ could be classic David Sylvian. The song features Pieter Nooten and Yvette Winkler. The lyrics of the chorus goes ‘Step up to find/an island in place/frozen in time’. Piano and violin drift by. ‘A Dedication’ is yet another beguiling piece of music. Strings, piano, backing vocals and electronic noises galore. The album closes with ‘Here and Away’ which is the ultimate dream shoegaze electronica wave of sound. The moving sound of ‘Into The Northsea’ is the sound of music ‘far away in a distant time’, to quote a lyric from ‘In my Dream’.
In the words of Stefano Guzzetti: ‘I love using notes, noises, frequencies, and everything that can be put on a grid or a score and sounds good to me. This is how I feel music. I also love being in harmony with everything around me. Just living every moment of my days. This is how I live life.’
‘Into The Northsea’ is out now on Psychonavigation Records.
Waves On Canvas‘ Into The Northsea is an album project from Sardinian composer Stefano Guzzetti featuring a series of guest vocalists over the release’s running time. Constant throughout is Guzzetti’s gift for rich, melodious, electronically made score-like arrangements which teem with floating synths, strings patterned piano, programmed beats and sampled sounds.
The vocalists give the album a richer palette and help break up the occasional feeling of instrument deja-vu: from This Mortal Coil’s Louise Rutkowski’s angelic contribution to Irene Nonnis’ mournful turn on ‘In My Dream’ and Ian Masters’ daydream timbre on ‘Starfish’ and personal favourite Françoise Lacroix’s spoken word on ‘Voix dans Une Voix’. Into The Northsea is an ambitious and carefully constructed collection of ambient, electro-acoustic music. It’s released on Psychonavigation now. Listen below and buy from Bandcamp.
http://igloomag.com/reviews/waves-on-canvas-into-the-northsea-psychonavigation 08/04/2012 3:36 PM PHILIPPE BLACHE
Stefano Guzzetti is a versatile musician and sound alchemist coming from Sardinia. After the publication of two CDr’s under his own name he launched a promising electronic sonic ambient project entitled Waves on Canvas. Into The Northsea is the second effort released as Waves on Canvas, available on Psychonavigation Records. The music can be described as a subtle mix of impressionistic dream-pop rockin’ ambient, orchestral minimalism and sound ecologies. Most pieces include vocal parts or narrative such as in the amazingly evocative and mesmeric “Voix dans Une voix.” The result is alluring and constantly peaceful, efficiently sentimental, bringing to the fore a luxurious form of solitude to the listener. No isolationist but autonomously nostalgia under an intimate musical discourse. “Twenty Years” starts as an instrumental and delicately dreamy ballad built on the piano harmonies. “Angel” reveals a catchy pop-ish rhythmically orientated song with an obvious shoegazey tendency. The same musical schema goes for many tracks, such as the softly and smoothly positive “Starfish.” Compositions like “Flowers Of The Northsea” or “Stella” reveal more proximity with environmental music moving into a solid soundscaping minimalism. According to me these reflective-long stringed immersive soundscapes are the major strength of Into The Northsea’. To sum up things, Into The Northsea is a colorful, rhythmically orientated dream pop ambient album which features a nice combination of micro-sounds, immediately recognizable melodies which positively embrace the essence of soothing mellow electronic music. A pleasant listening, quite charming and accessible to all.
While Waves On Canvas’s Into the Northsea doesn’t situate itself radically outside of the electronica genre, it’s also perhaps more song-based, overtly emotive, and melodious than the Psychonavigation norm. The project and album are the brainchild of Sardinian composer and producer Stefano Guzzetti, who was born in 1972 in Cagliari (the capital city of Sardinia) and is currently studying electronic music at the Music Conservatory in his home town. Growing up, he developed an interest in computers, began programming, and found inspiration in the music of Kraftwerk, Joy Division, The Cure, and Siouxsie & the Banshees during his teenage years. The album alternates between instrumental electronica and vocal settings, with different singers appearing on each of the vocal pieces. The stirring voice of Louise Rutkowski (of This Mortal Coil) was heard prior to the album’s release when the single “Angel” was issued in late 2011, and the album also features singing by Françoise Lacroix, Ian Masters, Yvette Winkler, Pieter Nooten, and Irene Nonnis.
Guzzetti’s melodic gifts are on full display from the start when “Twenty Years” inaugurates the album with a pretty melancholy setting for piano and glockenspiel. It segues into the strings-heavy ballad “Angel,” which features two of the recording’s most ravishing hooks (in its “When you think you’re falling / Think of me I’ll be there” and “‘Cause I’m your angel” lines), not to mention a powerfully heartfelt vocal by Rutkowski. Masters’ voice nicely complements the acoustic guitar-driven swoon of “Starfish,” which Guzzetti otherwise dresses up with sleigh bells and xylophone. As spoken-sung by Lacroix, Marc Atkins’ French lyrics lend “Voix dans une voix” a cosmopolitan air; elsewhere, Yvette Winkler and Pieter Nooten make a compelling pair when their voices are presented in unison on the piano-centric ballad “Frozen,” and Nonnis memorably recaptures the emotionalism of “Angel” on “In My Dream.”
On the instrumental front, “Stella” is elevated by the sparkling synthetic treatments Guzzetti adds to its beat-driven, strings-and-electronics dramatics, whereas piano sprinkles brighten the electronic design of the brooding meditation “A Dedication.” Tracks like “Twenty Years” and “Pure” also indicate that piano is Guzzetti’s core instrument, no matter how many other sounds appear on the album. For whatever reason, he chose to follow the album’s first eleven songs with four minutes of seashore sounds before the appearance of the final instrumental setting “Here and Away.” There are also moments when Guzzetti would have been better to pull back on the production design—a potentially lovely piece like “Flowers of the Sea” is marred by an excess of electronic clutter when a less busy approach would have served the material better—but that’s the sole weak aspect of this otherwise charming collection.
Waves on Canvas - Into the Northsea 7.0
Waves on Canvas achieve something admirable on ‘Into the Northsea’: a stylistically varied piece of work that is emotionally consistent. This contains a concern degree of hope. Every song possesses this little glimmer of hope. Instruments are picked not only for their tenderness but for their ability to expand upon this idea further. Male and female vocalists elaborate on the themes as well.
Mellow is a good word for the whole album. Songs on here simply float on by in a pleasant summery haze. A few times they veer into hyperactivity: Stella has a crazed hyperactive ending and ‘Flowers on the Sea’ feels like some long lost Four Tet piece. In fact, much of this borrows from the folktronica scene. The mixture of the electronic and acoustic is too great to be a mere accident. By far my favorite though is the driving piece ‘Starfish’ which combines all their interests into a perfect track. On ‘Starfish’ they remind me of an early Autolux track scrubbed of aggression. This is a wonderful track as the little electronic details drive it forward. By the end when it surrenders to the drum machine it feels earned, like the break of character was utterly necessary.
At first it may come across as too sweet. Give it time. It is refreshing to hear a band so sincere in its beliefs. There is not a trace of irony in these twelve tracks. Waves on Canvas make completely honest music. Have this seep into your Beach Sloth
daily routine. Listen with the sun glowing brightly above you.
Check out the interview and album review with Waves on canvas in the latest edition of ROCKERILLA http://www.rockerilla.com/?p=5900