Alessandro Bosetti - Stand Up Comedy
Weird Ear Records
Alessandro Bosetti has been working with language for some time now, though his is a language shorn of context, a language of the cortex, a strain of cross-hatched anti narrative that intrigues by talking a tightrope between utter dream-speak, half-heard conversation, and the use of speech patterns as musical elements to be played as one would any other sound.
On these recordings, he utilizes an instrument of his own design (Mask/Mirror) to skew any intent to specific meaning asunder, as the mask/mirror has been engineered to chaotically interrupt and reconfigure speech in realtime, creating odd juxtapositions, abrupt interruptions, and a wholly arresting listening experience. As Mask/Mirror spits out phrases, isolated words, vocal tics, plosives, and the occasional guffaw, it convolves the starkness of that material in real time with bells, sine waves, percussive elements and other instrumental sound, effectively creating a tonal shadow that further blurs the divide between sound, speech, music and language.
Side A of Stand Up Comedy is comprised of audio extrapolated from a tour of the US and Europe in 2008. Portions of Bosetti’s performances including audience interactions, interviews, and phoned in conversations with Mask/Mirror, are woven together into a seamless whole, the overall structure mimicking the recursive and mutating phrasings that Mask/Mirror can tend towards. A rich cross section of people interact with and become part of Mask/Mirror, as it saves portions of speech for later use, effectively keeping the listener guessing as to what may ‘really’ be happening in any of these interactions.
Side B of Stand Up Comedy was recorded live at the Echzeitmusiktage festival in Berlin, and is a composition for voice/electronics, Violin, and Contrabass Clarinet. We hear a conversation between two anonymous speakers, transcribed and rerecorded in Bosetti’s voice, played back through Mask/Mirror, recombinant and exploded in it’s exploration of it’s initial themes. The instrumental parts have been transcribed to shadow the utterances and meanderings of the Mask/Mirrors winding lines, as Bosetti struggles to keep the sometimes darkly comedic themes in check, and simultaneously copes with the danger of letting his instrument speak freely in front of a live audience.
This is the first release for Weird Ear Recordings, and we couldn’t think of a better initial release-as-mission-statement than Stand Up Comedy, as it sits in it’s own sound world, connected to many veins of experimental sound practices, but beholden to none. The LP in particular reflects our admiration and enjoyment of this work with a beautiful picture disc and semi-transparent sleeve design realized by Thom Dudley at Sightlab: The full transcript of both pieces traces an Archimedean spiral around the vinyl itself, dizzying as it plays, and at rest in it’s sleeve, offsets an almost egyptian salmon, and an almost sumerian bear that reside over the cover, a reference to the last few elements at play in the tail end of Side B. Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi.
Available now on an array of lovely formats: 300 vinyl picture discs with printed heavyweight PVC sleeves 100 Pro-Printed and Duplicated Cassette Tapes and an unlimited edition of digital downloads in mp3 and flac formats.
Reviews starting to come in!
"Where to begin… Alessandro Bosetti‘s music for the last decade has documented the de- and re-contextualization of the human voice through a variety of means. Il Fiore Della Bocca achieved this through the natural alterations of ‘normal’ speech exhibited by the voices of individuals with speech impediments, such as stuttering and phonetic disorders. Africanfeedback did so through vocal mimicry of contemporary music and through a simple ignorance of the languages his subjects were speaking (often Dogon). Throughout his body of works, we find the spoken word being imitated in the tonality, rhyme and meter of Alessandro’s synthetic and instrumental compositions – often playing simultaneously, or with a brief pause as if to accentuate the aping. Stand Up Comedy, then, seems a natural extension of this praxis. Here we find language being broken into the sentence fragments, muted reactions, bursts of laughter and confused exclamations that result from Alessandro’s use of the Mask/Mirror machine.
This machine is (in an act of generosity to the listener) introduced and briefly explained early on in Side A, where it is described as an ‘interrupting machine’. It sounds as if Alessandro has at least partial control over the device, which variously plays tones or sound samples, sometimes speaks appropriately and often out of turn. Much of the first side features conversations in a variety of contexts all with essentially two Alessandros – himself and his pre-recorded sentences, words and idioms being pronounced from his machine. The fourth wall is virtually non-existent here, as phrases and phonemes are repeated sometimes alongside the field recordings, sometimes instead of them. The question of where post-production, or even composition, begins and ends seems rhetorical (which is perhaps partly the point). Large sections consist simply of Alessandro grappling with his own creation as it fills in gaps in his sentences, speaks over him and plays back slightly inappropriate comments on cue.
I laughed out loud – frequently. From incredibly awkward pauses in phone conversations to Alessandro’s personal confessionals and tangents (“‘Cause everybody have guns, and I thought it’s kind of cheap…”), good portions of the album are a riot. This is both contrasted and complimented by moments of absolute beauty as well. There are countless self-conscious ‘um’s and ‘uh’s over-top sine waves and toy-piano tones that lend the album its overarching intimacy, to say nothing of the lilting clarinet, violin and electronics of ‘Life Expectation’.
This latter piece again features Mask/Mirror, here reciting various iterations of segments of another conversation over-top of Alessandro’s trademark instrumental mimicry; this time occasionally leading the spoken word, instead of tailing it. It plays out like a game of spoken charades, where the words are describing both the scene in which the conversation takes place, and make critiques of the presentation itself.
Stand Up Comedy is as much theatre as social commentary as music, and Alessandro’s use of humour helps prevent the work from collapsing under its own rhetorical weight into mere solipsism. Given that we tend to think in some shorthand version of a spoken language, Mask/Mirror presents us with the innumerable iterations of speech that flash through the mind before one is chosen for externalization. The listener hears each potential response played in sequence until one is settled on, momentarily living out the following seconds in each particular reality.
If ever you find yourself worrying about the future of contemporary music practices (after skimming through album after album of laptop drone music), listen to this album – I assure you that it will renew your optimism and probably get a laugh or two as well.
Available on cassette, LP and a variety of digital formats from the relatively new (and sure to be intriguing) imprint Weird Ear."