In a suite of 14 short sonic sketches, Salvatore Passaro lays out impressionistic work run through a series of distorting filters that coarsens its edges and scours it in texture. This is by no means a happy album. It’s draped in an almost constant grey fog of equal parts resignation and quiet angst, but it’s tempered by intriguing construction and plentiful attention to the impact of small sounds. Its emotional center feels very true and affecting, and each piece in its own way draws the listener in. For me, Passaro gets better as he gets quieter. “Dream” and “Memory” flow together to create an ambient-like atmosphere. “Dream” melts field recordings into a breathy wash and strips itself down to a point where it’s little more than a slow draw of bowed strings and a light breeze blowing coolly across the landscape. “Memory” opens with night sounds, piano, and curls of string instruments. Vocal pads ease in, and the piece moves like a gentle pan across the evening sky. Listen closely to catch all the movement going on, the layers Passaro threads through each other. The closing track, “Sinestesia” is a well-executed drone piece that from the first note sets out to soothe your mind. Even here Passaro stays with those lightly roughened textures. They work on this track to create a wavering feel that just makes everything that much more hypnotic. In other tracks, Passaro reaches for some classical influence, easy ballads or etudes, and subjects them to the same filters and treatments. The transmuted, chime-like keyboard sounds of “It Is” play against a background treatment with an Eastern feel. “A Light” surrounds the piano with a rush of sounds, a spinning wind that threatens to overwhelm it yet never does. One of my favorite tracks here is the trippy “Circular,” which loops in some indistinct vocal drops, packed with echo, over different keys—piano and electric piano—and some kind of wonderfully distorted and amorphous warble of sound that rolls through.
To my mind, Overwhelming suffers from brevity. Passaro’s compositions are all roughly pop-song length, running two to four minutes, and often end a bit suddenly. As much as I like “A Light,” for example, it swirls to an odd and somewhat unsatisfying close. And it’s not alone. Too often, just as I’m getting good and deep into a piece, it’s just about done. I feel like Passaro would thrive and enthrall even more if he gave himself a broader stretch of time in which to express his stories and give them space to truly speak. Overwhelming deserves your attention, and speaks of more good (and hopefully longer) things to come from Salvatore Passaro.
Available from Bandcamp.