LINE_006 | CD | Edition of 500 (sold out/out of print) | August 2001
Z.e.l.l.e is the project, founded early 2000, of Italian duo of Maurizio Martusciello and Nicola Catalano, both of whom reside in Rome. Their debut cd nth is a collection of points strewn across an implied graph of a sound field; delicate crackles, clean sine waves and sibilant washes create a mechanical room tone of deliberate precision. z.e.l.l.e’s use of a transparent and airy sound palette make nth a highly contemplative and listenable study of sound and space.
Maurizio Martusciello is an electroacoustic composer and drummer involved in projects of both experimental and improvised musics. Among his many compact disc releases: Meta-Harmonies as Martusciello [Korm Plastics/Staalplaat, The Netherlands], Dentro with the group Ossatura and Tim Hodgkinson [ReR/Megacorp, UK], Unsettled Line [Metamkine, France] and metaXu as metaXu [Plate Lunch, Germany]. In 1999 he was awarded second prize in the third edition of the International Electroacoustic Music Contest (CIMESP, Sao Paulo do Brazil). Martusciello has performed at festivals worldwide including Archipel 2001 (Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif), Dissonanze 2 (Rome), Off ICMC 2000 (Berlin), LMC Festival (London), Musique Action (Nancy), Musiques Actuelles (Victoriaville), Biennale di Roma 1999, Biennale di Venezia 1999 among numerous others. In June 2001 Martusciello was artist-in-residence at GMEA in Albi (France).
Nicola Catalano is a journalist for the Italian magazines Blow Up and Rumore, as well as a radio programmer for the national Italian broadcasting company RAI and a passionate listener of strange and unusual musics.
The union between electroacoustic composer Maurizio Martusciello and journalist and radio host Nicola Catalano has given rise to the anaemic sonorities of "nth", a minimal-transparent work subdivided into nine impalpable and contemplative tracks. The dissonant pulses and diaphanous melodies of "nth" catch and destabilize the rigidity of ambient music, and advance into fragmetary landscapes irradiating spiritual microsounds, almost sad in their delicate steaminess. z_e_l_l_e is an experimental project dissolving the very essence of sound into thousands of micro-organisms pregnant with infinite. On the other hand it's interesting to verify how in this case the fusion of music and experimental praxis reaches high levels of convergence, where the sound in itself is not a gurgling phenomenon anymore, but rather an inseparable brilliancy of secular ideals.
For fans of artists like Carsten Nicolai and labels like Raster-Noton, this collaboration between Italian electro-acoustic composer Maurizio Martusciello and journalist Nicola Catalano will feel as cosy as an old oscillator. Except that this duo isn't interested in f orging any rhythm from its delicate crackles and pointillist nicks. Instead, these two have focused on creating a low-level sound field built out of frequencies that either fluctuate in intensity or pitch or are stretched out and overlapped in slight variations. It's not until the middle of the album that the frequencies fatten out into delayed tones evoking hose gamelan gongs and crickets. It would be easy to mock the precision of these electrostatic fields as the work of po'-faced sound scientists. But as much as Martusciello and catalano are pushing the frontiers of sound to the nth degree, they have also constructed a highly listenable album of sound and space.
Literally everything that can be heard, every little sound that comes to your ears while you're listening to these Italians, turns into music. Even the smallest real sounds you never notice, the sounds that are not meant to be noticeable - for example, you're sitting in an armchair and then some sound appears - that sound becomes music too. The ears are getting used to many sounds and we naturally neglect those sounds. In their music, Z.E.L.L.E include those unnoticeable real sounds. While you're listening this album all those sounds are becoming a part of the music. That sounds are not on this album, those are real sounds that you're hearing all around you every day, but while you play Nth those real sounds are part of the music. It's not important what IS present in Z.E.L.L.E music, but what IS NOT present. This music is absence. What is present is the absence of sound. That's how the real sounds fit into those empty spaces in Z.E.L.L.E's music. This album is produced and recorded very quietly on purpose, so you have to turn the volume on your sound system twice louder and that's still not enough, it is still barely hearable. But of course, all that is because of the effect that is incredibly great achieved. The effect is literally the most urban microsound music, because it brings together every sound from the urban surrounding. Ultimate music. 12K is amazing label from New York and Line is a sub-label of 12K, run by Taylor Deupree and Richard Chartier.
(Urban Magazine, Macedonia)
Z.E.L.L.E's graphically constructed sound compositions aim for a precision of abstraction with the abandonment of melodic structure. Electroacoustic composers Maurizio Martusciello and Nicola Catalano create highly intricate (if, at moments barely audible) snippets of sound on their debut, Nth. The sound is delberately sparse, leaving the act of listening quietly active and participatory.
Italian microaudioexplorers Maurizio Martusciello and Nicola Catalano team up to become z.e.l.l.e.... together they forge those itty-bitty soundscapes which you've come to expect from the Line label. No exception, 41-minute-long nth dwells in a practically subaudible world of gaseous vapors, almost-imperceptible clicks, low-frequency hums and various hybrids thereof. Whether you find it all tantalizing or frustrating will depend on your personal affinity toward microsound experimentations. Intermittent hissiness radiates from the 1st track, with vaguely "wet" specks sometimes spurting forth in mechanoid impulses. The 3rd piece (7:02) unfolds... quietly, yes... into enigmatically sizzling expanses with twiddly chimes which come and go in teasingly unpredictable patterns. The ringing replicants of 4 ripple outward in echoing spirals. Imagine if Barbie's little toy TV was sporadically emitting a test pattern... it would sound alot like the coming/going monotones of 5 (1:23). In 6, semi-rhythmic microbes flutter and pip alongside robo-cricket patterns. In sparse metallic tones, faint, wavering undulations periodically emerge from (and recede back into) the otherwise still 8th track.In an ambient-listening paradox, the sounds of z.e.l.l.e. are so elusive, that one must actively seek them out, because if you listen wallpaper-style (and/or in a less-than-noiseless environment) they will surely go unnoticed except for the few more-"boisterous" passages. Finely crafted, but so-delicate, nth receives an 8.3 for obvious topical sincerity and arrangement skills... no matter how "small".
The most striking feature of z.e.l.l.e.'s debut CD is not its exceedingly low volume (barely audible music has become its own genre, so we should all have gotten past that shock by now), but its magnificent use of stereo seperation. Digital pings are placed very carefully in space, while crackling static, not unlike the runout grooves of records, swirls underneath. As one listens deep into the music, sharp digital percussion dances in skitish cyclic patterns from all sides and lilting melodic fragments overlap and fall away into silence. Despite the air of sterile distance suggested by the grey and white package, a sense of playfullness pervades the music, as if the artists are truly enjoying their sound materials and aiming to continually surprise the active listener. This is the most overtly musical Line release so far, with recognizable song-like structures and dub-like delay effects making it more approachable and accessible than, say, Immedia. I imagine that nth would be even better as a four or five speaker installation in an art gallery, so that a listener could sit in the middle of an isolated room and hear the clicks swirl around.
(Boston Weekly Dig, US)
Minimalism that mimics points on an imaginary graph-if that doesn't pique your interest in the slightest, then you're reading the wrong review. Italy's answer to immedia, z.e.l.l.e, refrain from challenging the deep listener, instead focusing on implying space and depth in sound. Twisting glitches are hung in zen fashion like chimes, while muted alarms buzz and flat sheets of static slide on top of one another like teutonic plates... all this within the first ten minutes. Motion is present, but in only brief glimpses: the dubbed-out ringing signals of track four, which scatters to the furthest reaches of the stereo field, uses echo to an effect uncharacteristic of Line releases, grounding imagined space in the real. However, unlike most Line releases, nth is awash in shallow waves of altered sound that requires little effort to take in and enjoy.
It looks like the album holds all the characteristics and habits that we usually associate to microwave electronica: elusive sizzlings, strident pulsations and other micro-noises at a large frequencies spectrum placed into broad silent fields... But upon a deeper listening... develops into an ethereal suite where (micro)melodic tendencies, semi-organic sounds (almost calls and bawlings of artificial birds) and atmospheres structured in a much more articulate and evocative way than the aseptic microwave canons gradually peep out. They are diaphanous ambiences, or better rarefied stylizations of that "narrative of memory" through fragments and sound impressions so dear to the old musique concrete which Martusciello & Co are lovers of: like the sketch of a landscape drawn with a a stroke of the pencil so subtle to digress into impalpable abstraction. A work able to reward the effort of listeners with the admittance into a seraphic "digital zen" dimension.
A music perennially balanced on the brink of ruin, but that misteriously never sinks nor really concretizes... as in Z.E.L.L.E output there's much more melody; a melody only sketched at intervals, running after itself or being planed, stretched, compressed and that nonetheless is always able to catch our ears. And, close to melody, there's also much more rhythm; at the risk to be misinterpreted, we would like to underline a dub component manipulating its sound depths and echoes. Z.E.L.L.E is a rather different project from Martusciello other recordings and that, a real chance of route rather than an evolution, make us thinking that Catalano contribution is everything but devoid of importance and influence. Now the challenge has been clearly thrown out and the future will tell us if the two are going beyond a door on tomorrow or on a simple white wall. In the mean time please check out this excellent "nth". Vote: 7/8
(Blow Up, IT)
...Their debut full-length is a collection of... delicate crackles,clean sine waves and sibilant washes create a mechanical room tone of deliberate precision. Zelles use of a transparent and airy sound palette make nth a highly contemplative and listenable study of sound and space. Ultra-minimal, almost whispered beauty. Check.