Alberto Bertelli, in our circles known as Holy Similaun, is a name which has caught many connoisseurs‘ ears lately. And if not so, it definitely should’ve, as it refers to one of the most promising newcomers of the field of out-there sound science. Originally coming out of Italian youth‘s punk scene, after releasing his debut split EP with Weightausend on his own label Prehistoric Silence, another split EP with fellow Italian producer Coeden or challenging futurist jungle opus En To Pan through Natural Sciences, Alberto now shares another ambitious piece entitled Hegenrax, which found home under the roof of OOH-sounds.
Over our heads, as the label is accurately entitled, has recently seen breakthrough EPs from likes of the top lad and EDM industry whistleblower Sim Hutchins, his partner in the crime Dale Cornish, or Wesqk Coast, just to name few.
In contrast of Holy Similaun’s past work embracing chaos and his very own punk attitude, Hegenrax feels both minimalistic as well as orchestral, gentle and thrilling, attacking the uncanny apperceptions of everyday surroundings with a certain grace.
„..blurry skies, polluting semantic memories with augmented-nostalgia, but managing to see a possible future through suburban fractures,.. „ says the promotional writeup for the EP. These days, I have been forced by life-related circumstances to switch from the suburbs to be moving through the most appealing tourist areas of the capital on an everyday basis, and that is where the EP has been a company to me most of the listens. Watching the sidewalks swarming with the most fly eye-catching sneakers stepping over corpses of passed small animals or McFlurry cups, passing through the same places where one day sleek whips of corrupted politicians are parked and the other day thousands of people ritually gather to protest against these vehicles’ drivers, the music speaks to me as much as while cruising through a Tesco parking lot in my decayed hometown, as suggested in the promotional e-mail as an ideal place to listen. Not only the cowbell in the opening track Expell means a ring of warning for me on my way to work then. Hegenrax captures a melancholy of desolated areas as well as an ambiance of urgency, typical for the crowded capital centers. The two different environments are both steamed with tension and confusion these days. The strain is in the hot air, and you don’t have to be a careful listener to can hear it lurk around the burning concrete blocks really clearly.
I was pleased to be given an opportunity to ask Alberto a couple of questions to lighten up the sentimental thinkpiece above. Most of the ones I came up with are actually quite generic, few could eventually be considered overtly personal.
Martin: Can’t avoid my favorite speed-date-cutoff one, first: three fav Autechre albums?
Alberto: HEHE, I really love Draft 7.30, Confield and LP5. More than three single albums I enjoy Autechre in their entirety, it’s always a math trip (a nice one for sure).
Is there any specific thought background to Hegenrax, or any of your releases in general?
Yeah sure, I work a lot with mood boards, memories or deja-vus (my mind easily trickable by myself lol). En To Pan was based on an image-driven mood board composed while I was working on an only-online project with my mate (& Prehistoric Silence co-founder) Gianmaria, we were flashing these desert-like images with stochastic sound synthesis, just nerdy stuff. Hegenrax instead is build on a mood board composed by how I feel my hometown suburbs, in a sense, it’s „colder“ than En To Pan, simultaneously I feel it more personal since it’s about things I know instead of something I’ve only digitally seen.
How is your live performance built?
I usually play live with Ableton Live, two MIDI controllers and a custom distortion pedal (made by my friendo No-oN), it’s not that complex set-up, I prefer to keep all the “soft” effects in the digital ecosystem, whilst the distortion must be the rawest possible.
I enjoy playing with a lot of granular-based effects, making each live set always different from each other, even if the tracks are always the same. At present, I prefer to play already-made tracks, more than trying to launch spare samples, etc, etc, I’ve tried to play using a Max/MSP patch, but I don’t get it for a live show. (SORRY AUTECHRE)
Not only on Hegenrax it seems you’re sampling a lot. Where do you take inspiration for sampling?
I’m used to downloading these extra-enormous soundpacks or anime rips (my fav one is the one coming from Evangelion). Each sound could be useful, even the dumbest one if it’s overprocessed, stretched, reversed and so on, can be a nice sound (or an inspiration for something else). Also, I enjoy to resample a lot of sounds manipulated via granular synthesis, like in “Cursed G-Open”, the voice is just a normal female voice re-synthesized using the Henke’s Granulator. Btw, in the Hegenrax tracks, I only used sounds coming from online public archives and then I put some IRCAM and M4L fx chains, nothing more.
From my point of view, I’m curious about your label – Prehistoric Silence. What kind of portfolio would you like to present with the roster? Are you into supporting the local Italian community with young names, or more into collecting a showcase of a certain type of sound in a way?
Prehistoric Silence is a collective of punk kiddos trying to put together some tracks and have fun, we „produce“ (that’s so capitalistic ) first our friends and crew-mates, we’re not focusing in any kind of particular sound. Obviously, we take the label in the most serious way, now we’re planning some gigs/DJ-sets, probably we’ll release less music, but more curated.
Talking about curating labels‘ roster and collaborating with other artists, a well-thought (self)presentation seems necessary these days. How is it for you to present yourself as a persona. Does it come naturally for you, or are you more the type to peek from behind the scenes and let the music be on the spotlight?
I always try, just look at my social accounts, to avoid the physical aspect of my project, I prefer to focus on the sounds or the imagery of what I’m doing.
Even the live sets are always dark & foggy, people should care more about music than fashion.
Word! An Aphex Twin „seal of approval“ might be considered is a powerful „brand“ among the circles. With Aphex’s DJ sets‘ impact recently being oddly questioned by some voices in the community, I can not resist asking – how do you perceive the whole matter yourself? What does the so-called shout-out mean to you?
Certainly, it’s a cool thing, you have a lot of visibility but except for some isolated features, no one really cares about that, also, I don’t like too much the „AFX approved“ certificate and again, people should care more about music.
Obv, this is an event that happens once in your life, but then you’re not AFX or Madonna, nothing changes.
What are you into these days, taste-wise? (music, movies, shows)
Currently, I’m into this sort of melting pot made by 90’s jungle tunes and late 2010’s HD ambient music, like Event Cloak, Nozomu Matsumoto and Visible Cloaks. + right now I’m listening to Death’s „The Sound of Perseverance“, what a masterpiece.
Not watching too many movies or shows, just reading a lot, from Python guides to Scottish literature (PLS EVERYONE READ LANARK, IT’S SO GOOD!), also, I’m enjoying a lot playing F2P battle-royale games & NFS lol.
Favorite potato chips flavor? (asking in every interview, personally interested)
EHE, paprika chips or the ketchup ones.
Complete following sentence: I’m killing myself with ………“
…deep fried memes (THE SPONGEBOB ONES, DAMN) or pasta e fasioi (IT’S SO TASTY!) https://www.cookaround.com/ricetta/pasta-e-fasoi.html
A last one – what would be a question you would generally welcome to read in an interview with a musician? Then answer the question yourself.
I’d like to read this question: „what makes you cry at first sight?“
See you, web cowboy…
photo © Andrea Montanari, @blusiderio
questions © Martin aka Rgreat