Synth-instrument adds new angle to ambient electronic genre
Alessandro Cortini, best known as the keyboard, guitar and bass player from the rock band Nine Inch Nails, has released his newest installment in a long series of synth-based albums. SCURO CHIARO contains influence from an instrument of Cortini’s own design, the Strega; it’s a sleek and stylish semi-modular synth that contains all of his favorite features from various synth instruments. The album, though also rooted in other synth and guitar sounds, is supplemented by the unmistakable muffled, grainy and dream-like influence from the Strega.
Though he joined Nine Inch Nails in 2005 and has created music with the industrial rock band for almost 20 years, Cortini’s solo work is an ode to synth. Cortini displays both a deep mastery of the instrument and an avid enthusiasm for pushing the boundaries on where ambient and electronic music can take listeners. His 2017 Avanti album was recognized by ambient electronic greats such as Brian Eno, and he has collaborated with other ambient and drone artists such as Lawrence English and Daniel Avery.
SCURO CHIARO, which translates into “light-dark” from Italian, crescendos from a calm harmony into an intense and dark soundscape. Though the record only clocks in at about 47 minutes with about eight tracks, the work encompasses a wide range of the minimalist ambient noise genre. The piece begins with the bareboned but beautifully haunting track “ECCO” and ends with the darker and more complex “FIAMMA.” “ECCO” is stripped of the frills that characterize the rest of SCURO CHIARO but makes up for it with its melancholy drone sounds complimented by an erratic but rich beat.
Tracks “SEMPRE” interjects sharp, gritty whispers over siren-like noise while “LO SPECCHIO” drops sparse beats into a vat of mixed synthesized stew. Both display the wide range of the Strega in a layered and multi-faceted tapestry of sound.“CHIAROSCURO” wields a more melancholy sound that evokes a wistfulness that the other tracks lack, while “VERDE” and “NESSUNO” are showcases of Cortini’s depth of expertise on the Strega.
If Cortini was a supervillain, his new weapon would be the Strega — the instrument adds another dimension to the other synth and guitar sounds of SCURO CHIARO, and Cortini is the mastermind composing each layer. Though the instrument often produces unfiltered, raw and grainy sounds, and the Strega adds a distinct layer of softness and muted tonality to the album that sets it apart from synths in ambient, noise, and drone works. The beauty and distinctness of Cortini’s new album SCURO CHIARO will delight fans of the small but dedicated world of ambient music.