Monochromes Vol.1

LINE_040 | CD | Edition of 500 (sold out/out of print) | June 2009

Monochromes Vol.1 is the new sound work by Italian multimedia duo TU M’. The Monochromes series is a collection of modular audio and video compositions for electric chamber ensemble. Fragile atmospheric colours made of sound, light, space. For more information on these works along with the accompanying video excerpts can be viewed at

“A poet always has too many words in his vocabulary,
a painter too many colors on his palette,
a musician too many notes on his keyboard.”

– Jean Cocteau

Monochrome # 01 (14:34)
Monochrome # 02 (12:59)
Monochrome # 03 (07:05)
Monochrome # 04 (29:49)

Music composed, arranged and performed by TU M’. Recorded live at Vico Santa Chiara Studio, Città Sant’Angelo, Italy on the 11th June and 5th July 2008.
Rossano Polidoro: laptop, mixing board / Emiliano Romanelli: laptop, mixing board. Cover image: Still from the video Monochrome # V06, 2008.

– Italian multimedia duo formed by Rossano Polidoro and Emiliano Romanelli in 1998. Their works include music, video and photography. They live and work in Città Sant’Angelo (Pescara, Italy). Through a personal use of digital and analog instruments, the TU M’ reveal a complex universe made up of present and past, closeness and distance, where seeing and listening become a meditative contemplation.

During the years, their compositions, well received by the critics and the public, have been released for labels including: Headz (Japan), Dekorder (Germany), Fällt (UK), Cut (Swiss), ERS/Staalplaat (NL) and Phthalo (USA). Together with various participations on Bip-Hop (France), Crónica (Portugal), Mute (UK), FatCat (UK), Innova (USA), Bottrop Boy (Germany), 12k/term (USA), Ache (Canada), CubicFabric (Japan) and others.

They have worked in various fields together with numerous musicians and artists including: Steve Roden, Simon Fisher Turner, Frank Metzger, Annja Krautgasser, Dan Warburton and others.

Their audio-visual works have been presented and exhibited in various museums and galleries including: Castello di Rivoli (Torino, Italy), Arnolfini Gallery (Bristol, Uk), Macro (Roma, Italy), Stuk Art Centre (Brussels, Belgium), Kunst Meran (Merano, Italy), Centro d’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci (Prato, Italy), Università degli Studi di Napoli (Napoli, Italy), Warehouse Contemporary Art (Teramo, Italy), Galleria Civica d’Arte Contemporanea (Monfalcone, Italy), Civica Galleria D’Arte Moderna di Gallarate (Varese, Italy), Palazzo Lucarini Contemporary (Trevi, Italy), Zelle Arte Contemporanea (Palermo, Italy), New Chinatown Barbershop Gallery (Los Angeles, Usa), Pianissimo Gallery (Milano, Italy), T293 Gallery (Napoli, Italy), Batofar (Paris, France), Purple Institute (Paris, France), Neon Gallery (Bologna, Italy). And in various festivals including: ArezzoWave Festival (Arezzo, Italy), Dissonanze/Enzimi (Roma, Italy), Napoli Film Festival (Napoli, Italy), Videominuto (Prato, Italy), Sintesi Festival (Napoli, Italy) and others.

In 2002 they set up and manage the net project – TU M’P3 Soundtracks For Images – a research on the possible relationships between music and image in various cultural contexts, where over 180 musicians and composers from every corner of the world were invited to produce an inedited soundtrack to a series of digital polaroids made by the TU M’ themselves. The archive contains over 200 freely downloadable mp3s

In 2003 they set up the recording label – MR.MUTT Records – where they document the work of international composers and ensembles which explore contemporaneity via the use of the laptop in various musical contexts.

In 2003 they created the musical ensemble – STENO – together with the German artist and musician Frank Metzger. In it they explore a personal world made up of second-hand music. They released their first work «Second-Hand Furniture» with Mr.Mutt (Italy).


Battiti Radio (Italy)


This disc represents the auditory component of a mixed media project from Italian duo Tu M', who describe Monochromes as "a collection of modular audio and video compositions" which create sound and light vibrations that reverberate around the performance space, resulting in "an atmosphere to be contemplated". This being an audio-only CD, Tu M' have in a sense shifted the goalposts somewhat, and the only clue to the visual element you have is the album sleeve, which lifts a still image from the project. Having listened through the disc, it's actually pretty difficult to imagine how any sort of corresponding video might enhance the experience. These compact, finely worked pieces construct an enveloping ambience in their own right. 'Monochrome 01' immediately provokes comparisons to William Basinski with its looped, heavily enshrouded loops and ghostly piano gestures, but there's a more digital, less gritty feel to this album that sets it apart from that oft-copied sound. Next comes 'Monochrome 02' (unsurprisingly enough), which is far less concerned with constructing any explicit melodic presence, instead content to cast sonic shadows for twelve minutes or so - it's all characterised by a disconcerting intangibility, vaporous and strangely... absent in tone. More overtly musical is the shortest entry here, 'Monochrome 03', which unfurls chords that gently swell and fall away like a distant orchestra, only for the final piece to present a more solid block of sound, casting a veil of digital smudges over your ears for a hypnotic half-hour. Abstract and immersive listening from the reassuringly challenging LINE stable.


You can't say, not anymore at least, that Tu M' are overproductive. In their early years they had a whole bunch releases (on labels as Headz, Fallt, ERS and Phthalo) but its been a while since I last heard their music. I am not sure how they arrived from the last point to this new point, but the four pieces - ranging from seven to thirty minutes) are fine examples of monochrome sounds. Highly atmospheric, deep, ambient, a bit hissy. Just a simple set of loops set forward to play music. Not unlike the recent Celer or the elsewhere reviewed Yui Onodera & The Beautiful Schizophonic, but Tu M' seems to play even longer and more stretched. Ambient music with the big A of course. If Brian Eno has artistic children then their names are Tu M'. Here too, nothing new under the sun, but its great late night music.
(Vital Weekly, NL)


The Jean Cocteau quotation accompanying Monochromes Vol. 1— "A poet always has too many words in his vocabulary, a painter too many colors on his palette, a musician too many notes on his keyboard"—speaks volumes about the refined, minimalist aesthetic Italian multimedia duo TU M' brings to its latest project. Armed with laptops and mixing boards, Rossano Polidoro and Emiliano Romanelli recorded the release's four "Monochromes" live on June 11th and July 5th, 2008 at Vico Santa Chiara Studio in Città Sant'Angelo, Italy. As a project, Monochromes constitutes a collection of "modular audio and video compositions for electronic chamber ensemble," with this sixty-four-minute volume the first in a presumed series. Atmospheric, fragile, and anything but monochromatic, the material is ambient soundscaping of an exceptionally ravishing kind. In the first setting, a gently wavering melody cycles amidst a vaporous mass and muffled percussive accents; in the second, faint, flute-like tones gracefully unfurl like the slow lifting of a veil as a tonal cloud smeared with static swells in volume. In the see-sawing arrangement that follows, soft whistles alternate with lower-pitched exhalations. The least melodic and most reduced of the settings, the fourth "Monochrome" moves like an immense cloud formation across the sky for a full thirty minutes, with speckles of static and crackle popping alongside its billowing tonal mass. Unusual for a piece of this kind, a shift occurs two-thirds of the way through when the mass quietens, allowing celestial tones to assert themselves more audibly. As previously noted in the textura review of the duo's 2005 Dekorder release, Just One Night, Polidoro and Romanelli named themselves TU M' after the title of Marcel Duchamp's last painting and chose Mr. Mutt as the name for their CD-label in homage to the artist too (in 1917, Duchamp, under the name Richard Mutt, submitted his infamous urinal—known commonly as Fountain—as a sculpture in a New York exhibit). But, just as Just One Night evidences little in the way of dada-like mischief, so too is Monochromes Vol. 1 a wholly straight-faced collection . That it documents a more "serious" side of TU M' doesn't take anything away from the beauty of the recording's material.


L'arte sublime del loop. Che ben conoscono e praticano i pescaresi TU'M, qui al loro rientro dopo un lungo periodo di assenza discografica (ancor più notevole, considerati i prolifici standard del duo). Una programmatica raccolta di composizioni monocrome, tessiture dormienti, interminabili, smagliate fino all'inverosimile. Fluttuanti nella zona quieta del vuoto anecoico che contribuiscono a creare, palpitanti della stessa tremolante malinconia ambient dell'ultimo Stephan Mathieu. (8)
(Blow Up, Italy)


Over the past few years Rossano Polidoro and Emiliano Romanelli, perched on their mountain top in Citta Sant'Angelo, Pescara, Italy, have surveyed the landscape of contemporary electronica in all its diversity, swooping down like birds of prey into the fields of glitchy post-techno and dreamy J-pop to grab tasty morsels from the undergrowth. On Monochromes Vol.1 they stick to the sky above in four spacious, contemplative tracks, characteristically elegant and polished, content to let their sounds fly like kites instead of chopping them up into bits and stitching them back together into amazing technicolor dreamcoats. The disc comes with a quotation from Jean Cocteau ("a poet has too many words in his vocabulary, / a painter too many colors on his palette, / a musician too many notes on his keyboard"), which might lead some folk to expect a move into Sachiko M less-is-more territory on the part of our Italian adventurers. Not at all – the music is as rich and colourful (I wonder about the album title though) as anything Tu m' have released in their career so far: it's just more leisurely and serene. Looking forward to Vol.2, lads.


Jean Cocteau once wrote that "a musician [always has] too many notes on his keyboard." Tu M’ will likely never be accused of having such a problem. Ambient music must always allow for introspection, but few albums have carried this goal further than Monochromes Vol. 1, which almost legitimately sounds like music from the womb. The duo has been plying its trade for almost a decade now, but with its first release for Richard Chartier's Line label, it appears to be seeing the fruition of its hard work and is well on the way to hitting a comfortable mid-career stride. As an audio/visual project, the album is somewhat incomplete without its film accompaniment, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t still incredibly satisfying on its own. This is one of the slowest and most majestic albums of the year.


The album, released on Richard Chartier's LINE Records, features the first four (out of nine) audio compositions, created for "two laptops, two mixing boards, two loudspeakers, one video projector, [and] one room." These pieces were recorded live at Vico Santa Chiara Studio, Citta Sant'Angelo, Italy in the summer of 2008. For the installation, the duo create an atmosphere where "sound and light vibrations reverberate inside the room, blending together in an enveloping monochrome, that creates an atmosphere to be contemplated." The visuals, available as excerpts on the TU M's website, are composed of drawn out monochrome landscapes, resembling distant mountain silhouettes and sluggish geometric figures, visible in change and movement only through sporadic skipping through the captures. Attempting careful observation, or trying to make out patterns that are not there, is futile. It's like watching yourself age in the mirror. It's like watching the clouds… The audio compositions paint the same picture. Over a slight white noise hiss and endless loops, the melody swells in ambient waves of sound, sparkling in the light of distant piano notes. Like the waves of an ocean that have been crashing against this beach for thousands of years, and many years to come, this music is new and ancient – it exists _all_ the time, somewhere completely on its own, only to be summoned into this moment with the press of a button. The sounds fade in and out with the rhythm of my breathing. Inhale soft pads. Exhale minor chords. Let this pattern wash away all worries. And when the [almost] 30 minute track ends, the melody is still there, in the background of my mind.


There's a Cocteau quotation accompanying Monochromes Vol. 1 which, along with the title, signals its ambit: "A poet always has too many words in his vocabulary, a painter too many colors on his palette, a musician too many notes on his keyboard." This points to the deliberately reduced palette deployed by Tu M', and a clearly minimalist flag flown over its aesthetic. On the linked video material, Tu M' reduce the number of colours to one or two shades, and limit the quantity of notes in their creations, further underlined by the terse track titles. Despite the minimalist manifesto, and their ostensibly undeveloped nature, its vistas are far from monochromatic in their veiled enigmatic quality. One of the videos is of an imperceptibly shifting landscape that gradually changes as ridges rise and fall; it's so subtle you hardly notice it in its instance of occurrence - a nice illustration of the album's dynamic: little seems to happen, yet your ears are on guard to pick up the minute microvariations as they come. To tweak Eno, it's music that can be ignored and remain interesting, but becomes more interesting the less you ignore it. There are beautiful sounds here, but they’re deliberately obscured, emplaced with the most liminal of presences. The likes of "Monochrome 02" may be Basinski indebted, but to speak in terms of its being derivative would be misguided, as these days in the ambient drone and neoclassical minimalism ambit, it seems increasingly like we are dealing with a shared sonic lexis of gentle motion and diaphanous timbres - one that doesn’t belong to anyone, and at their best, as on the gorgeous elegiacs of "Monochrome 03", Tu M' show themselves worthy of consideration among its most eloquent articulators.