On July 7, Klammklang released the debut album of Milanese improvisational duo Rosso Polare. “Lettere Animali” is extremely curious mixture of EAI, Mediterranean folk music and biophonical recordings — and the latter highlights the duo“s work brightly. Cesare Lopopolo and Anna Vezzozi not only collect a capacious and imaginative picture from the vast amount of recordings of the animal world, but also invite the listener to “read” these messages from other inhabitants of the planet. By the instinct, turning off the omnipresent mind for a while.
“Lettere Animali” works perfectly as conductor to the utopian (but nobody said “impossible”) harmony between human and nature both breathing and moving. If this summer cut off your path to the nearby forest or other space of free life — start playing the album immediately. It won”t transfer you to the nature, but will remind of a number of places and creatures that we had to leave throughly.
Meanwhile, I spoke with the half of the duo, Cesare, about things a little lighter and more humane.
Interview in Russian can be accessed via this link — https://syg.ma/@artiom-abramov/cesare-lopopolo-rosso-polare-were-more-romantics-than-activists
You and Anna both have an art background. How did you meet? Where did you study?
We studied fine arts in the same university, Brera Fine Arts Academy in Milan, and we caught up with each other, finding ourselves to support the ideas of one another, weird as they could be. For example, I was working on a project involving ladybugs and Anna was the only one who took seriously the idea, offering to gather some for me. From that moment, we started collaborating in each other’s works.
I always cultivated a very strong interested in music. Being raised in a family very keen to arts, I always had support in my passions, moving in parallel between music, photography and fine arts. I started a bunch of solo projects in the past, always on the edge of electroacoustic and prog rock.
On the other hand, Anna always had an interest in visual arts, albeit ever surrounded by musicians in her life, often wanting to try herself. A strong fascination in nature sounds and field recording made her take the music road too.
Was Caesar’s Psycho Machine your first musical experience?
In a way yes, it was. Caesar’s Psycho Machine was an odd and clumsy studio project focused on scenographic and baroque prog rock. I had this nostalgic idea of bringing back the free-minded spirit of the 1970s, the impossibly long tracks and psych explorations. Those sounds were very relevant to me at the time, and I kind of tried to resurrect the whole scenario by myself. [chuckles]
Are you still keen to odd rock/italoprog? Or these times are far behind, and you concentrate on Ebria Records mainly?
Not anymore, I think. I went through a phase when I understood that this sounds are not enough now, and the intention to sound more honest, more like I really would, grew in me fairly rapidly. I still experiment with phantasy-esque, dungeon synth inspired sounds sometimes. [laughs]
Ebria Records was an underground label really famous in the North of Italy in 2000s. We became friends with the founders and thought about getting the label to work again, we’re still getting things together now, while working on new records (soon to be released!).
Let’s go to the main point! How initially Rosso Polare started?
A couple of years ago the two of us recorded a long consecutive take of free improvisation, 45 minutes. It started as a joke, as we didn’t take the recording too seriously. Sometime later, a mutual friend listened to the track and thought it was pretty good, asking us to play live. We then called another friend, Giacomo Alberico, to play bass for us and that was our lineup before the pandemics. The first time we rehearsed the nearest building took fire and my clarinet broke in half [laughs], we felt like we were evoking something.
What instruments do you use now? I saw an excerpt from your set with laptops and pad.
Being multi-instrumentalists, our instruments are not fixed and they constantly change, however, some of them keep returning. Our first set-up was mainly based on electrified and beaten kalimba played by Anna, electric guitar and clarinet played by myself, and bass played by Giacomo Alberico, as I said earlier. Then we incorporated more things into the palette, adding prepared guitars and field recordings, always using lots of pedals too. Today, after ‘Lettere Animali’, we would gravitate more toward heavy use of biophonic recordings, prepared string instruments, crackles and noises and all kinds of flutes.
‘Lettere Animali’. You’ve made it after a year after the beginning. Your past sessions allowed you to record it so fast, or something else?
‘Lettere Animali’ was a result of one year of recordings. Sometimes we did it together; sometimes I would record myself and then ask Anna to add something of her own. By the start of the pandemic, we had the whole album finished more or less. During the quarantine, we made the most of it reorganizing the tracks and working at a distance, being separated by miles, correcting and polishing the record.
I“ll be honest — except the news and description there was a funny thing that made me push the play button. The cover. Its idea reminded me of this old song. It”s just a coincidence of images, or maybe there was similar inspiration? Something behind the just lonely seagull in the sky?
First of all, it’s not a seagull, it’s a heron!
We didn’t know the song but we like it! Sometime ago Anna took this photo of a heron and we used it as an image for the band. For the album cover we had several photos of animals, but Stas [Sharifullin, the co-founder of Klammklang label where ‘Lettere Animali’ was released] suggested using this one.
Herons are very common near Anna’s hometown in the countryside and it’s fascinating seeing them appear in this dense fog, spreading their wide wings above the white fields of winter. In the end, we thought that this image was coherent with the poetic side of the record.
We wanted to take our music somewhere else. Working in the same spot might be redundant sometimes, furthermore we prefer to work with people overseas, as there are a lot more desire to experiment and invest in strange projects. We knew Klammklang as a really great independent label, with great artists and a really strong and curated visual side. We sent them our music thinking that it would suit the whole scene.
In some terms, you are much more humanistic than “dark ecology” etc dudes, and especially than the hardline naturecentrists of some black metal and noise people. From what did your approach arise?
Yes, we tend to be a bit different from ‘dark ecology’ theorists. Our vision can be described more as a ‘revelation’ instead of an attempt in awareness. Everything that is nonhuman for us is a possibility of sublimation for a single being, because we see diversity as an extension of our knowledge. In that sense, being aware becomes an exercise in seeing above the anthropocentric realm, trying to catch glimpses of reality by observing animals. However, we don’t like to be wholly ethical or political about it, our music speaks for itself and doesn’t want to denounce something as an ultimate purpose. We’re more romantics than activists.
Do you think that close or deep listening available to the world of animals? Or, maybe, to the whole nature?
Yes, we believe that the animal world, as well as the whole nature, is really able to listen and understand on a higher level. That is not because we as human beings are inferior in any way, but because we as a species decided to stand apart from the rest of the biological realm.
Whenever we encounter some animals, Anna tries to communicate with them, imitating their language, which sometimes result in a funny situation. [laughs] Most of the times she’s serious about it but we don’t know yet what they think of us.
What was the criteria of nature and life recordings? Some exact places or precise species? Or spontaneity was the rule?
Most of the times we recorded what we found interesting and relevant in biophonic patterns. Field recordings for us are like triggers, unlocking images still to be experienced, as a sort of déjà vu in a way. Also, Anna has a very deep connection to her land, that made her think of a way of giving back her vision. I always try to carry around my recorder, in case we find something interesting, especially when we visit unknown places.
You are very Italian in that sense, that many of your predecessors in improv/experimental music used Mediterranean folk as the basis of their own. Telaio Magnetico, Atropina Manufactory bands, Simon Balestrazzi, some of Italian Occult Psychedelia movement. But you go deeper and build a whole improvisation, even a non-folk parts of it, on Mediterranean melos. Was that the ultimate aim of the ‘Lettere Animali’? Or you just fell into that non-thinking mood you spoke of?
‘Lettere Animali’ was conceptualized partly by instinct, as animal would act, but it was recorded in a state of ‘active imagination’ where nothing is left behind [the record], forced or reduced, offering most of the times an interchange between our sensitivities. However, in the mixing phase, when everything was assembled following a more structured approach, the aim of the album came out more clearly to us: each track follows the course of a presque vu, being on the edge of a very strong epiphany though never really achieving it. I suppose it’s a very human condition.