NI VU NI CONNU’s series of five LPs from saxophonist John Butcher is such a dense collection of sonic entanglements that no matter how much I listen to each of them, there’s always something more to hear. With lamenti dall’infinito, Butcher is joined by Liz Allbee on trumpet, Ignaz Schick on turntables, samplers, and electronics, and Marta Zapparoli on tapes, reel-to-reels, and antennas. With Butcher bringing his usual varied tenor and alto intricacies, lamenti dall’infinito is an interesting ride.
“sea of distortions” opens the album with aplomb. Interplay between Allbee and Butcher is mesmerizing. Sharp saxophone jolts flicker like lightning in the air pointed straight toward the more melodic rasp of Allbee’s trumpet, but her deft movements turn the passage into a fantastical aural cat-and-mouse. These arrangements bristle with excitement as if the quartet is discovering a new world, but the energy runs out and Zapparoli and Schick gloss across the landscape with granular dissections.
Once that opening exploratory joy fades into the background, an uneasy feeling of being stranded on a distant planet emerges on the shapeshifting “molecular memories.” The saxophone and trumpet squelches are SOS messages being reflected by a thick, textural atmosphere. Electronic glitches add to the tension as Butcher taps the sax’s keys, splattering dissonance across the mirror, and Allbee twists her voice into the bell of her trumpet to create eerie alien soundscapes.
Feelings of relief are momentary, but brief moments peek through the growing storm as Butcher blasts high-pitch wails as a last-ditch effort for escape. The grating electronics continue boiling underneath, but the layers of horn exuberance add to the belief that hope is not lost. It’s short-lived, though. Tape snarl and harsh, almost-rhythmic oscillations grate the hard edges into dust, leaving a pile of debris and a black box recording of this outpost’s last moments. Scratching backward to claw out a new tunnel, there are scathing drones that grow in stature with each passing moment keeping us locked inside. The curtain finally closes with fizzing electricity punctuating the oddly peaceful water flow from a broken pipe.
lamenti dall’infinito is an interesting listen that keeps listeners guessing. Even after multiple dives, I still get lost in the sonic wash. Butcher’s LP series for NI VU NI CONNU is a thing of beauty and showcases an artist who is always searching for new ideas to sink his teeth into and is uninterested in resting on anything tried and true.