Boomkat Product Review:
'Spiralis Aurea' is a major new work from Italian avant-gardist Stefano Pilia, re-interpreting medieval liturgical music and 20th century Minimalism through unusual concepts and techniques. It’s a stunning piece of work that lands somewhere between Michael Nyman, Mica Levi x Arvo Pärt - and we’re completely floored by it.
The 13 pieces here work as an invocation, sweeping up the influence of medieval church music, renaissance, contemporary classical and sacred minimalism without ever sounding exclusively rooted in any of those modes. Pilia's compositions are generous - refusing to play out as a test of endurance, instead tapping into a sort of primal atavism rendered with the lightest touch.
Opener CRUX sets the scene; making use of glissandi and phasing in a way that reminds us of both Mica Levi’s stunning, unconventional string layering and Lucy Railton’s psychedelic Shepard Tone-riffing on her 'Fortified Up’ session, techniques that magnify a sense of being that’s both woozy and sublime. The brass-heavy 'CODEXIII(+)' features Elisa Bognetti on horns while Pilia plays bass organ, smartly offsetting those swells against the similar hued sounds of his organ. If you’ve heard Jóhann Jóhannsson's brilliant "The Miners’ Hymns", you'll know where this one's going.
'ASCENSIO' is even more of an 'artmelt, featuring Enrico Gabrielli on organ as sweeping church music forms into mathematical sequences that are both stimulating and harmonically heart-piercing. Not as glacial as Ellen Arkbro or Kali Malone's similarly-poised compositions, Pilia's music edges closer to the sacred minimalism of Arvo Pärt, teetering between hallowed grandeur and quiet intimacy.
The most unexpected turn comes on ‘Hannah', where Portishead's Adrian Utley leads an electric guitar quartet playing 12-string alongside Alessandra Novaga and Stefano Pilia. The sounds mimic John Dowland's 15th century lute music with a slow and contemplative core that’s made contemporary through a smart use of instrumentation - a sort of contextual sleight of hand that feels like an elevated way to approach themes of loss and remembrance, signaling at the distant past without obscuring present day motifs.
A remarkable piece of work that - despite being very much on trend (organ, liturgical music, strings) - is rendered with such a brilliantly unusual command of composition and space as to elevate it to a higher realm. Followers of work by anyone from Bach to Lucy Railtion and Kali Malone should be equally in thrall to the magic contained within.