Man, a what a world to we live in. Just this year Italy’s Archeo Recordings reissued Paolo Modugno’s intriguing debut Brise D’Automne. Once a member of Italian multi-media performance group O.A.S.I., what turned as a love for Middle Eastern and African music transformed into the exploration of new ways to interconnect the electronic with the acoustic and, more impressively, different musical traditions into a new unplaceable style. Brise D’Automne was Paolo’s near-perfect debut presenting a very Italian answer to Jon Hassell’s Fourth World studies. A mix of sampled sounds, electric synths, guitar and ethnic percussion placed it firmly in that bit of Italian minimalism we’re just getting around to discovering. Hopefully, in the near future we’ll get someone to do the same honors to his sophomore release Le Bala Et La Mouche.
Brise D’Automne gave listeners a taste of far flung, reaches of the Italian journey, through songs like “Danza Nell’acqua”, “Il Minareto”, and “Un Petit Grillon Noir” that hint at the African, Asian, and Middle Eastern place Italians had set foot before. Le Bala Et La Mouche, goes one further, by pushing even deeper into those spheres. Recorded eight years later after his 1988 debut, RAI’s Audiobox radio program financed and commissioned Paolo to compose music for their show and Le Bala Et La Mouche would be the album born out of this opportunity.
Creating a fascinating, dreamlike musical environment, Paolo made it hard to know where his own percussive playing, those from oud player Saleh Tawil, or multi-percussionist Mohamed’s additions begin and when it’s this other, new environmental sound captured, being played back from a sample, propelling the music forward. For two years, since 1992, Paolo found a way to piece together all sorts of disparate sounds in ways that made their combination seem at once alien to whatever we’ve heard before…yet sound very familiar, as something that we can place somewhere else before.
The opening track, “Le Marché Des Femmes Au Port (Dakar June ’92)”, gives you a hint of where Paolo’s traveling for sound sources took him, but that only tells half the story. Splicing Islamic chant, Old World Christian prayers, sampled, indigenous drumming and drone music, together with all sorts of his own acoustics (darbuka, saz, baglama, guimbri, and much more) made Paolo’s aim really be more about creating a larger sonic world than the one where those sounds came from. It’s a world that I’m having problems trying to describe. Listen to the following three tracks: “Morte Di Soundjata Keita”, “Koumbi Saleh”, and “Il Triangolo D’Oro” and you might better understand what I can’t pinpoint.
We like to think Western culture has this authority on multiculturalism and progress, but there’s so much of the world out there that’s been doing this naturally for millennia years longer. All Paolo does is rearrange these musical bits together masterfully in Le Bala Et La Mouche as a reminder of what we’re missing when we expect more of what we think we know. Magical doesn’t even come close to describing this album.