Ambitious and abrasive ambient-industrial fusion from a newcomer
Breaking onto the music scene as a budding artist takes ambition. Gino Serpentini, aka Little Snake, has that in abundance. The Alberta, Canada native has gained notoriety in recent years for his performances opening for Flying Lotus, who signed the young producer to his Brainfeeder label.
Serpentini’s music could be described as any number of genre fusions, from acid techno to industrial ambience. “I was recently added to a Facebook group titled ‘Omni-Tempo Maximalism,’ and I think that’s my favorite label for my music so far,” he said, a description that feels more than apt. A student in sound design, Serpentini often sounds like he’s trying to load in as many layers of caustic, textured sound as possible without the luxury of a discernible beat.
On his February 2020 EP YATDC, Serpentini continues to explore the sound that got him signed to FlyLo’s label, mixing rigid, synthesized industrial sounds with tranquil and melodic instruments for a head-spinning cocktail. Surreal and abrasive, Snake’s EP takes an enticing musical premise—the fight between the ethereal and the ugly—but pushes it too far to the extreme with his messy, disorienting production.
Little Snake’s Bandcamp page describes YATDC as, “a message, delivered to you by omnipresent entities that have appeared in your skies for some time, via Little Snake as a vessel.” It sure sounds like it. The opening moments of “I. OYU3.33REA” announce the arrival of these mysterious beings, with resonant humming and what sounds like the chugging of a train pulling into a station escalating until their vessel arrives.
The rest of the track is a battle between the organic and the decidedly inorganic, as ghastly vocals and arpeggiated piano riffs do battle with a garbled mess of textured noise ranging from whirling chirps to grainy scratches and bangs. It’s like a Frankenstein’s monster of wildly disparate sounds, but Serpentini gets a bit overenthusiastic with the chaotic noise.
The track “II. ETH2.22” fades in next, and it’s more of the same. In one corner, meticulously engineered sound design, this time incorporating both synth sounds and percussive elements, faces off against some lo-fi guitar. The premise is the same, and so is the execution. Prettier elements fight against the bizarre landscape of digitized noise, but it’s not a fair fight. Again, the abrasive elements win out, and the resulting composition is tough to listen to.
As the mind-bending odyssey continues, the listener arrives at “III. 4.62287ARMED,” a track that ratchets up the divide between the beautiful and the grotesque further still. The song has kind of a plodding groove to it as alien-sounding vocals are joined by jangling percussion that flies wildly around the mix. The tune’s crux, though, is a jingling music box riff that builds into an EDM-style drop with a mind-numbing concoction of synthesized sound that sounds like Serpentini just started smashing his keyboard in frustration. The second half of the track is more palatable, centering on a fluttering piano riff and droning low notes. It’s got a hazy, haunting mood and will make listeners feel as if they’re stuck in a spiral.
That pretty piano riff swirls into the final track “IV. REACTOR0.93713,” which immediately begins spitting out the notes and sounds in reverse. They recede back into the annals of Snake’s DAW before a shimmering passage that feels like you’re suspended in cyberspace. But like most sweet-sounding things on YATDC, it’s short-lived. Blown-out rumbling and industrial noise swoop in, engulfing twinkling synths in a sea of acid.
Some hope is restored when the piano riff from the previous track is reprised, but that too is swept up in a storm of overwhelming synthesis. The song is a push and pull between the melodic and the abrasive, but the two seem to end on equal footing as the ebbing and flowing sounds of synths and industrial noise fade out together.
Across his experimental new project, Serpentini juxtaposes angelic passages of organic sound with a devilish conglomeration of brutish computerized noise. While admirable in premise, Little Snake’s musical themes are somewhat mangled in their execution. There’s plenty of intriguing sounds and textures explored here—Serpentini clearly knows his way around a production platform—but the dueling elements on YATDC could have been combined with a bit more nuance.