Boomkat Product Review:
‘Cupo’ is the debut album of gothic folkways and dark jazz rituals enacted by prolific percussionist Valentina Magaletti and enigmatic spirit Laila Sakini, deploying an orchestra-sized ensemble of instruments into a 10-part movement spread over two seamless sides. Ghostly and completely transfixing material, it sounds like a pitch-black reduction of Talk Talk's ‘Spirit of Eden’ crumbling into Julee Cruise's ‘Floating into the Night’.
An ode to DIY culture and improvisation, Cupo marks a turning point and coming together of two of London’s most imaginative figures. The project sprung to life after Magaletti, versatile drummer-composer for a myriad projects including Moin, Tomaga, Holy Tongue and CZN, asked singular singer-songwriter/art explorer Sakini to contribute to an album that quickly developed into a separate project in its own right. Initiated under a title meaning ‘dark’ in Italian, Sakini plays trumpet, flute, harmonica, recorder, vocals, bass, strings and piano, while Magaletti adds acoustic guitar, spoken word, bass, and drums, pitched down to match the sunken swag of Sakini’s voice.
‘Cupo’ oozes a sense of theatrical dramaturgy that feels like two players in a staged psychodrama. The pair’s exquisite twists of light and space enhance the sensation of peering in from the dark of the stalls, scenes mysteriously changing on stage. The opening hums with nervous energy, the vast sweep of possibility - things could go in so many different directions - concrète, free jazz, doom noise, forest folk, trip hop - who fucking knows.
Magaletti's drums gain momentum, cutting into the void like a snare roll in the middle of a trapeze act, or the din from the orchestral pit in an old cinema. Staggered bass and pitched trumpet are thrown into the mix, the deep thrum of subs, a heartbeat, shapeless words, flute, lost fragments of chamber music, piano keys wafting in from outside. Just as things feel irrevocably shapeless, all the elements coalesce, Sakini’s voice and a recorder flip the mood. We’re in smokey, weird pop mode - just the thing we were hoping for.
The spirit of post-prog/proto-shoegaze hangs in the air, but the music isn't quite so specific. Pop dissolves into jazz, ambient passages cut into rickety blues, then scuffed into DIY art noise. The linking thread is always the duo's creative energy, providing a space for each to explore, without overwhelming the other.
Gentle, fierce music from two of the very best in the game right now.