Listening to Elusive Metaphor feels a bit like being told a secret, or like getting a clandestine glimpse at some sort of shadowy ritual. Alio Die (aka Stefano Musso) and Parallel Worlds (aka Bakis Sirros) combine their respective approaches, melding long, deep drones with crackling, technical analog electronics in this hour-long voyage. Balance plays a vital role here. Each composer distinctly steps forward in spots, but never completely owns the moment. Sirros’ work powers “The Dispersed Expectance,” filling your ears with buzzes, hisses, chirps and warbles. On “Roundabout Mirages,” he lays in round metallic tones in a rhythmic clatter. In both cases, his sounds are bolstered from below by Musso’s soft ambient beds. Musso leads the way on the opening track, “Unspoken Shapes,” a piece that grabs a deeper sense of mystery and the aforementioned ritual thanks to prayer-like vocals from India Czajkowska. As this release takes the listener deeper, we hit upon the long stretch of “Dissolved Heaven” and “Fragile Imagery.” For me, this is absolutely the sweet spot of Elusive Metaphor. In Musso’s drones on “Dissolved Heaven” I hear echoes of Steve Roach’s Early Man, but lighter on the tribalism. Field recordings play out in the backdrop, the gentlest taps of percussion mark time, and there is a wonderful slow-motion sensibility to it all. Even without the aural reference to one of my favorite ambient albums of all time, I’d still find this to be a splendid, relaxing piece. Toward the end the harmonies edge lightly toward dissonance, or at least an edgier tone. It’s a nice dynamic that works especially well as the sounds dwindle down and give way to the warm cocoon at the beginning of “Fragile Imagery.” This classic ambient piece simply sighs its way along, content to help you relax.
I was tempted to go back and re-listen to Circo Divino, the first collaboration between these artists, to compare it to this. I was quite taken with that first album, but I think any sort of comparison would do a disservice to this one. It certainly stands on its own and represents a new step in the direction Sirros and Musso are taking their partnership. It’s not a giant step, but it certainly moves them toward a less rhythmic space. (I re-read my review.) Elusive Metaphor is deep and lush, showing a fine confluence of light and shadow. From acoustic sources to analog synths, everything comes together smoothly. This is a must-loop album, and please have your headphones on to take in all the small, integral sounds. An excellent offering from Alio Die and Parallel Worlds.
Available from Hic Sunt Leones.