Alessandro Cortini is an Italian musician, best known for being the keyboard player in the touring line up of American industrial rock band, Nine Inch Nails and a founding member of the electronic-alternative band, Modwheelmood. He is also the frontman for the Los Angeles-based SONOIO, which is, in fact, a solo project – its name comes from the Italian phrase “Sono io” which literally means “it’s me”.
He has worked with Ladytron with the production of two of their albums, “Velocifero” (2008) and “Gravity the Seducer” (2011) and has contributed towards the electronic production for artists such as Christina Aguilera. Cortini’s new album, “Volume Massimo” follows on from his acclaimed 2017 solo LP “Avanti” and marks his debut with the electronic record label, Mute. The album opener is “Amore Amaro” with its repeated fuzzy pulse rhythms of synth. It’s a brave start, as some patience is required from the listener to see where the track is heading. The synths stretch and become denser in sound and it’s a sinister, sparse introduction.
“Let Go” is one of two top tracks on the album with a shuffling backdrop accompanying dark pulsating electronica. A glorious Vangelis-like chime of synth expands the track and adds a rich, lush upper layer with rock guitar chords providing a raw dynamic. It’s beautifully crafted and very atmospheric. “Amaro Amore” is the bookend to the opening track with a similar repetitive throbbing vibration throughout. This creates an intended insular ambience, claustrophobic even, making it hard to connect with on an emotional level.
Current single release “Batticuore” is another splendid track with echoes of industrial steam sounds harmonising beautifully with the illustrious keyboards to showcase one of the more uplifting, stirring tracks. It has a soaring, expansive feel, cinematic and epic with bold guitar work and, as with all Cortini compositions, is skilfully shaped with slow-building intensity before a singular monotone note abruptly shuts the track down.
“Momenti” is sombre in spirit with low bass military beats. It’s one of the more organic tracks fusing choral keyboard arrangements together with shimmering synths and includes at its close an experimental “mangled guitar” sound from an iPhone voice recorder. “La Storia” is a sonic exploration – a haunting, cinematic electronic journey using searing, buzzing synth notes. “Sabbia” is isolated and eerie with melancholic, industrial drone textures that are comparable with the sounds of a deserted city at night, of empty car park places and lonely office spaces. Closing track “Dormi” is a cleverly crafted track with desolate, distorted synth waves which create a heavy, darkened gloom interwoven with electronic hisses that converge into sleeping “cat-like” purrs.
“Volume Massimo” is a fine example of affirming Cortini’s talent at casting intricate compositions with deftly arranged ensembles of electronics. But it hits and misses overall as it can sometimes feel a little impersonal and restrained. Perhaps its rhythms and movements are so organised and closely constructed that they have no room to reach out and touch.
It is a provocative and intriguing listen to those who wish to admire an artist who is not afraid to experiment and is an expert in pushing the boundaries of contemporary electronic music – however, it would’ve been more of a “connective” experience if there were more tracks like “Let Go” and “Batticuore” where the use of guitar arrangements give the tracks a pull of an emotional heart as well as the design of an intelligent mind.
“Volume Massimo” by Alessandro Cortini is out on 27th September on vinyl, CD and digitally.