Album: MAX BONDI – M (Tartaruga TTRDC004 2009)


Tartaruga’s releases are always eagerly awaited around these parts. They don’t come around very frequently – this being just the fourth release since the label’s inception 18 months ago – but they’re always an aesthetic joy. Packaged in a hand stitched, gatefold recycled card sleeve, screenprinted in green and with a fold-out tracing-paper insert, Max Bondi’s first release M is a beautiful object. All the packaging in the world, though, can’t rescue a substandard record. This hasn’t been remotely a problem for the label thus far, and I’m pleased to say that their quality control department is still functioning perfectly.

There are a bewildering array of instruments used on M, and yet the album has an uncluttered simplicity to it. Most of the tracks are based around deep drones, but these are usually used as an enveloping sonic pallette through which other sounds rise and fall. There’s a fine balance of noise and quiet, of melody and dischord, and things tend to evolve unhurriedly, but not without tension or even violence.

Some of the bass levels are intense. “Morendo” has a deep bass drone underpinned by even lower sub-bass frequencies while a slow, echoing snare marks out a forlorn beat. “Volanté” also carries some subterranean tones with the percussion beating out a slow march and fuzzed up psychedelic guitar wending its way through the track. “Alina”consists of looped and overlaid cello phrases that both complement and contrast with each other as the track increases in depth, but always sound exquisitely mournful.

The epic “A Desperate Threnody” is the stand-out piece. Constructed like a three movement suite, it begins with a deep drone, as waves of grimy synth build to monumental proportions. When they seem about to crash, they fade into the long central segment which is constructed of chiming, metallic percussion and a gentle piano repeating the simple three chord theme of the first part. The finale is brief, a build-up of filthy static fuzz that obliterates the doleful mood with its malevolence. “Elenco” wraps things up, as sampled, distorted traffic noise and kids’ voices are eventually overwhelmed by a fuzzed up, spitting guitar coda.

M embraces the drone, the art of noise and reflective musique concrète. The elements are familiar, but the extremities seem somehow heightened. It’s a terrific edition to Tartaruga’s small, but perfectly formed catalogue. The CD, limited to 200 copies, is out on July 27th, with an unlimited download to follow later in the summer. Go to the Tartaruga website for details.

1 Aleph.Bet 3:52
2 Morendo 3:35
3 Volante! 5:44
4 In Such Seeming All Things Are 9:48
5 Alina 3:15
6 A Desperate Threnody 15:50
7 Elenco 5:34



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