Menion is the pseudonym of guitarist Stefano Ferrari. In this 10-song release that clocks in at just over half an hour, Ferrari cranks out a mixed batch of pieces that run from jittery experiments to dubstep-influenced rides and even a bit of jazz. This is all meant to capture the feel of the musical scene of Berlin, where he has spent the last few years, and in doing so winds up packing a sense of hurrying from place to place, musically, and visiting each just briefly. This gives it a slightly schizophrenic quality, with its approachable moments in distinct contrast to its more left-of-center ravings. Thing is, the approachable pieces are very much so. “Night in Berlin,” with its dubsteppy warble and plodding pace, makes for a great start to the release. Ferrari spatters the piece with microsounds and underscores it with a stalking bass line. When his guitar really kicks in, wailing its way through what would make for a very funky spy-movie theme, I get chills. There’s a similar, and similarly effective, break in “Stai Attento ai Segnali.” It busts open after several minutes of minimal, chopped sounds laying out a multi-layered beat, accompanied by pizzicato guitar. This track highlights Ferrari’s attention to small detail, which runs throughout the release. “Sopra un Aeroplanino di Carta” shows another side. Its chill-out groove is balanced with gritty noise, and in its quiet moments it’s simple, pensive, and engaging. When it breaks into a sort of smooth jazz thing just before the four-minute mark, the shift is both surprising and pleasing. The song wears several different faces in its five and a half minutes, all of them done well. There are also several very short pieces, the longest just over a minute, the feel a bit wayward, like half-thoughts thrown into the mix for transition. They’re fine, but for me they don’t add to the experience.
It took me a little time to warm up to Ferrari’s style. Whereas at the start I thought it was going to be too “out there” for me, I found myself getting quite into both his superb guitar playing and the richness of the sound. There’s a lot going on, and he manages it all skillfully. I find that sometimes glitchy elements can be overdone or overemphasized; here, they’re downplayed to the point of a well-used accent. When Ferrari chops and re-arranges sound or throws in drop-outs, as in “In Fondo a Un Lago,” it can be a challenge upon first listen. Then understanding comes. It’s not just that the sounds are chopped up, it’s that they’re being bounced back and forth between speakers (or ears) to play up their rhythmic aspect and to give dimension. So I have to say that Menion managed to win me over. See if he does the same for you. I’m looking forward to more.
Available at the Menion web site.