Valentina Magaletti “A Queer Anthology of Drums”

Released initially on Cafe Oto’s excellent Takuroku label, Valentina Magaletti’s crucial A Queer Anthology of Drums has been expanded and remastered for a vinyl release on bié Records. In a discography full of gems and essential works, A Queer Anthology of Drums stands out. Within its confines exists an ageless world where rhythm and ritual collide.

I first became an admirer of Magaletti’s work when I heard Tomaga’s debut, Sleepy Jazz For Tired Cats. That admiration has only grown exponentially since. Tomaga continued for nearly a decade before Tom Relleen’s passing in August 2020, and Magaletti’s solo and collaborative practice grew substantially in that period. Yet, for as many fantastic solo pieces she’s done, A Queer Anthology of Drums stands out. This is her most cohesive statement, a treatise laid bare as an amalgamated distillate of her fluid approach and mischievous experimentalism.

Percussive and rhythmic architecture is at the center of these nine pieces. Still, Magaletti’s use of varied instrumentation from oscillators and piano to vibraphone and toys as well as samples adds playfulness and guile to this nine-part excursion. New track and opener “She/Her/Gone” skitters across glass surfaces, the jazz-infused rhythm like cotton candy fluff propelled by a gust of wind. Fracture piano melodies bounce in the vacant spells between bells and cymbals, rattling broken wooden frames at their base. There’s an unsure effervescence, as though we’re reticent for the steps we know we must take toward a warm, inviting emptiness.

“Words I First Saw” pushes deeper into the mines, infusing subterranean claustrophobia with ceremonial folk progressions. Tension grows like living stalactites infused with stilted electronic scowls. A rugged, cryptic figure blossoms in the background. The weight evaporates with the arrival of the lithe, animated vibraphone dance on “Rumours of Bread.” Throughout A Queer Anthology of Drums, these disparate aural collisions are signposts for a splintered paradise. Imperfections add texture and weight, but there is always a groove to ride, even in the darkest stretches.

Magaletti covers so much ground on A Queer Anthology. The title track strides ahead on bouncy pop cadences pressed through a prism of aqueous field recordings and electroacoustic refractions. Alluring metallic clatter stretches and splatters on “Per Strada,” haunted by ghosts of an undersea choir. At the same time, a silvery clang hums a catchy melody in the relaxed expanse of closer “Tutti Al Circo.” Her compositions are precise but loose enough to let sounds hang within certain moments when the arrangement calls for it while still remaining in constant motion, moving in all directions.

There’s an engaging story laid out on A Queer Anthology of Drums that is simultaneously grand and intimate. Magaletti offers a historical revue of ritualistic music and folk forms that manage to push, or better yet ignore, boundaries while remaining accessible. It’s remarkable. While it’s off the mark to call this a ‘solo percussion album, that’s still the make-up of its bones. With that, Valentina Magaletti shows how to build something tender and powerful.

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