Francesco Gregoretti
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A Closer Listen
Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes Review [ link ]
Many of my favorite artists trained as architects, while many of my favorite composers had their origins in the rhythm section. I can’t help but try to see some commonality in this. Architects must strike a balance between being practical and imaginative, understanding both business and art, responding to real-world limitations and concerns which make their work remarkable simply for having been realized at all. Drummers seem to me to share many of these characteristics. There is something about the perspective of the drummer, able to think cyclically and holistically, that grants them a special structural significance. Ugly buildings and sloppy timing will immediately be noticeable, while often the most skillful manifestations are successful precisely because they go unnoticed.
Francesco Gregoretti conjures structure out of a flurry of chaos, a remarkable feat of free improvised drumming that defies expectations. Free improv and noise doesn’t generally go the subtle route, and improvisation may often be considered as the polar opposite of composition, even if this needn’t be the case. Still, it is fair to say that improvised music has a more complicated relationship with structure, one which only makes the role of the drummer more crucial. Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes could be described as a record of solo drum improvisations yet that fact also masks the deeply dialogic aspect of Gregoretti’s playing which remains openly introspective and dangerously explosive.
Coaxing powerful roars and shrieks from the drum kit, Gregoretti generates an interplay with a feedback system in a sort of duet between player and objects. Feedback becomes not just another layer of sound or even an instrument, but an agent in its own right. At times Gregoretti seems not to be so much controlling the sound but battling it. This tension punctuates the entire record, drives it forward while Gregoretti gives it shape and form.
The Italian word for the drums is batteria, which also recalls the various meaning of the English word battery: a source of energy, a physical assault, a unit of weapons. According to interviews, the drums came to Gregoretti as a result of an arbitrary encounter and not through a premeditated decision. This may explain why he has cultivated such an idiosyncratic approach founded on a personal relationship with the drums rather than modeled on the playing of other drummers. Gregoretti’s compositions move dynamically from sparse passages to full walls of sound, cascading deep rumbles and drawn out chimes. At times his playing recalls the idioms of free improv (“Nerves Of A Harp,” “Ring-Around-The-Rosey” ) with rhythmic circular playing and controlled scrapes of the cymbals. It is obvious a drum kit is being played, even if unconventionally, as we’ve become accustomed to these techniques. Elsewhere (“Cosmic Ziggurat,” “Uproar Among The Gods,” Unrestrained Activity”) the roars and squeals sound more like a raging saxophone or a power electronics group. The high frequency swells of “Suspended Solids” can almost be described as delicate and lovely, if not with an air of danger and the same tension which permeates the entire record. This variation keeps the record from becoming monotonous and tiring, and gives an overall cohesion and narrative arc.
Perhaps it is a reductive analogy to say that there is something of the chaotic energy of his home city of Naples being expressed through Gregoretti’s playing techniques, but I stand by this nonetheless. Naples may be the third largest city in Italy, with ancient roots, but is remains very much a peripheral city. It is a kind of frontier, a border between Europe and its other. For this it’s heterogeneity and vitality are confused for “backwardness” or melodrama. While much of the popular traditions might present a sunny and sentimental air, the alternative cultures that thrive there seem more prone to find sustenance in the anarchic freedom that defines a city of people who have learned how to make do. Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes is a fine example of how far this ethos can go.
Toxo label boss SEC_ has also recently released a new solo album. Entitled Melfite, named for an ancient Italic goddess of fertility venerated in the south, it explores the experience of death by starvation alongside the cult of fertility, the complex interplay between Life and Death which is another defining aspect of Naples. Melfite is drawn from recordings originally created for live multichannel diffusion for several radios and speakers, but is supremely absorbing even in two channels. (Joseph Sannicandro)


Blow Up

Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes Review [ BU#221 ]


Vital Weekly

Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes Review [ #1039 ]
A bit longer, thirty-nine minutes, is the solo release by Francesco Gregoretti, who we best know as the drummer for Grizzly Exploded (sometimes called Strongle Exploded, or vice versa) and who did a CD with guitar player Oliver Di Placido (see Vital Weekly 878). Since 1998 he is also a member of One Starving Day, which I never heard and plays improvised music with Pascal Battus, SEC_, Tetuzi Akiyama and others. Labelboss SEC_ here writes the liner notes and he compares Gregoretti with a mathematician, not because he counts his beats but him finding regularities among the chaos of sounds. I am not sure if I agree, but there is indeed a pleasantly disturbing chaos in this music. I would love to see Gregoretti play his music, as I heard some curiously interesting drone like sounds here; like he rubs with fingers over large sheets or surfaces of his drum kit. It adds some extra to his improvisation which we not always in the work of others. It is, despite what the word 'chaos' may imply, also not the work of heavy rattling and stomping around the drum kit, far from it actually. Much of what Gregoretti does deals with playing with a bow, the careful exploration of the various parts of his kit, focussing on single parts of it or using additional objects while playing the kit. A piece like 'Suspended Solids' is one of those quiet and introspective pieces of music. And, as said, in some of these pieces there is this menacing low sounding rumble, of which I have no idea how he does that. And yes, sometimes he lets arms and legs go all free on the kit and be all wild, but that never seems to last very long. It all in all makes this is a highly varied disc, with many different approaches to playing solo-improvised drum music. Excellent release! (Frans de Waard)


The Sound Projector
Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes Review [ link ]
We’ve heard Francesco Gregoretti before as part of the group Strongly Imploded, an unusual Italian improv combo; their ranks also include the wonderful _SEC, who did the mastering for Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes (TOXO RECORDS TX06) which is Gregoretti’s solo percussion album. Gregoretti is what we might call an “expanded” or “augmented” drummer. Not settling for the classical drum set, he also plays objects and amplification, thus placing himself in a line of avant-percussionists that surely must include Chris Cutler in the 1980s.
His set-up is described as a “system” here in the press notes, and I can well believe it…his aim is to generate “personal sound worlds”, and the overall effect of Solid Layers is indeed something that surrounds and immerses the listener. Instead of being attacked by percussive stabs and bites like a swarm of hornets, we’re boxed in with heavy blocks of droning, groaning, sub-bass roars and grunts. No wonder ‘Uproar Among The Gods’ is one of his track titles; that track in particular is a portrait of an Olympian rumble, like the opening track to Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland rethought for amplified drums. Matter of fact ‘Uproar Among The Gods’ would make a good title for a Led Zep bio depicting arguments and disagreements within the band. Gregoretti is also pretty hot with bowed cymbals and other metallic moments, which vary and leaven the otherwise “blocky” sensations of this sweaty, 12-rounds with the heavyweight champ album.
SEC_ has also written a sleeve note for the record, in which he points out that Gregoretti is a mathematician, and speculates on the way his music tends to demonstrate the rules of chaos theory. I also find that Gregoretti has played with some of my favourite maverick improvisers, including fellow mad drummer Will Guthrie, Jean-Marc Foussat the Algerian king of the VCS3, and Japanese guitar maestro TeTuzi Akiyama. You can judge a drummer by the company he keeps, they say. I also learn that the group Strongly Imploded is but one offshoot of the mothership group Grizzly Imploded, which has also spawned another combo called Oddly Imploded. I can’t keep up. From 26 June 2016. (Ed Pinsent)


The New Noise
Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes Review [ link ]
Ci siamo già occupati di Francesco Gregoretti, batterista di Grizzly/Strongly/Oddly Imploded, One Starving Day e – nel loro nuovo disco – Architeuthis Rex, tanto per dare qualche coordinata. Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes è il suo album solista, che esce per la Toxo Records del suo concittadino SEC_, col quale ha suonato insieme in studio e sul palco. Lo abbiamo anche intervistato durante il nostro viaggio impossibile nella galassia underground napoletana, capendo come intenda disegnare un suo percorso originale. Per quanto riguarda la mia esperienza di ascoltatore, mi viene spontaneo accostarlo a “percussionisti espansi” come Steven Hess, Frank Rosaly e Andrea Belfi (vorrei aggiungere anche Stefano Giust): ciascuno di essi “conosce” il proprio strumento a suo modo, esplorandone le proprietà acustiche al di là di qualsiasi ortodossia, trasformandolo in una sorgente di suono che gli permette di realizzare in autonomia degli album con una componente ambient e noise, senza l’aiuto di altri musicisti, ma eventualmente con quello di altri oggetti, dei feedback e di effettistica.
Due i pezzi messi in rete per creare curiosità: “Circling Menace”, per la quale è stato realizzato un video, è in primis un drone cupissimo che ara il pavimento, sul quale Gregoretti stratifica altri suoni cavernosi e in alcuni passaggi, per contrasto e per creare una sorta di suspense, il suono dei piatti della batteria; il senso di “menace” si trova anche in “The Prism Of The Minute”, altra traccia che si posiziona su basse frequenze che sposterebbero interi continenti e che si fa sempre più pericolosa con il passare del tempo, man mano che Gregoretti aggiunge parti alla base iniziale e la trasforma in qualcosa di più noise. Io vorrei nominare anche l’iniziale “Cosmic Ziggurat”: sarà per il titolo, sarà il ciclico riproporsi di una vibrazione acuminata e cristallina o il modo solenne e rituale col quale lui colpisce le pelli, ma l’idea è proprio quella di trovarsi dentro un edificio sacro durante chissà quale cerimonia.
Trattasi di disco che dev’essere lasciato crescere (e che dovreste proprio lasciar crescere). (Fabrizio Garau)


Sentireascoltare
Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes Review [ link ]
La Napoli sperimentale. Quella underground, fuori da ogni forma di folclore. Ibrida, glaciale e tesa verso un suono filosoficamente concettuale. È la Napoli di Francesco Gregoretti, già batterista con One Starving Day e le tante declinazioni del progetto Grizzly Imploded, e qui all’esordio solista con Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes. A sostenerlo in questa prova, il musicista elettroacustico Mimmo Napolitano a.k.a SEC_, che ci mette estro ed etichetta (Toxo Records), confermando ancora una volta la natura visionaria ed eclettica che da sempre lo contraddistinguono.
Il risultato è un disco spigoloso, frutto di geometrie sonore fuori controllo e complessi algoritmi matematici. Un universo tridimensionale dove Gregoretti fluttua e finisce per schiantarsi inevitabilmente su ogni centimetro del proprio strumento: la batteria. Difficile credere che così tanti feedback, echi, rumorismi e tonfi ancestrali possano provenire esclusivamente da uno strumento – bonariamente statico ma fondamentale per ampiezza e ritmo. La magia, o l’anomalia, è proprio questa. Sfilacciando ogni forma di complessità compositiva, il Nostro giunge ad una sorta di unicum – quasi un brodo sonoro primordiale – dove il “rumore” si fa ricerca. Su pelli e piatti scarica qualsiasi oggetto-congegno si adatti alla creazione e riproduzione di una vibrazione prima e di una suggestione poi. Ed è una ricerca algebrica – minuziosamente architettonica – piegata a traiettorie che mutano inaspettatamente, e figlia di altre schegge impazzite della sperimentazione come Steven Hess o Jason Khan: artisti in grado di polverizzare letteralmente il proprio strumento e poi di ricostruirlo dalla polvere, affidandosi ad un collante ora ambient, ora più deditamente noise.
Il musicista partenopeo riesce a consolidare questa natura da outsider. Equilibrista, gioca con il vuoto, allude e tende all’entropia. Un viaggio allucinato – destabilizzante – e che punta ad una sintetica destrutturazione del suono. Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes cela nella sua natura criptica un’indole futuristica in grado di rendere questi involontari pionieri (una vera e propria scena underground) materia di studio. Disco non di semplice assimilazione ma meritevole d’attenzione. 7/10 (Carmine Vitale)


Dieci Piccoli Italiani (Ondarock)
Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes Review [ link ]
Il partenopeo batterista e percussionista di ricerca Francesco Gregoretti fa emergere la sua personalità nel primo vero album a suo nome, "Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes", un ciclo di sonate per batteria, percussioni trovate e live electronics. L'indole è pittorica nella rada "Cosmic Ziggurat", esprimendosi dapprima in scintillii nel buio e poi in tuoni, scoppi e radiazioni, a due passi dalle pièce claudicanti dei Starfuckers. Secondo brano-chiave è "The Prism Of The Minute", una sordina grave e ultrasonica che alza tremori come nella superficie del mare prima di uno tsunami: purtroppo, questo preludio potente non trova poi alcun sviluppo. Così, nella chiusa di "Unrestrained Activity" le coloriture dell'elettronica aumentano e diminuiscono la densità delle percussioni. In mezzo Gregoretti scorpora questa sua estetica. Dapprima il focus è sul mezzo concreto, dall'improvvisazione appena vegliata da folate distanti di "Right-Around-The-Rosey", al trambusto di campanelli di "Nerves Of A Harp", alle risonanze metalliche percosse come gong (tracce di "Ummagumma") di "Faithful Walking Stick". Quindi viene l'elettronica, con pure risonanze di frequenze bassissime ("Uproar Among The Gods" e l'ancor meno musicale "Circling Menace"). Intriso di silenzio oscuro. Già batterista free di Strongly Imploded e Architeuthis Rex, Gregoretti - più intransigente del compare Andrea Belfi - non fa il solito album ambient-elettroacustico, almeno per scavo e contemplazione. Strumento aggiunto: corde di chitarra acustica montate su di un timpano. Produce una garanzia, Mimmo "SEC_" Napolitano 6,5/10 (Michele Saran)