Bruno Sanfilippo - Urbs
Artist: Bruno Sanfilippo
Label: Hypnos (digipak CD)
Bruno Sanfilippo is a classically trained musician and composer, resident of Barcelona, Spain, and cofounder of the ad21 label. He has collaborated with such notable artists as Mathias Grassow, Byron Metcalf, Max Corbacho and Alio Die.
Sanfilippo's work ranges from more melodic and structured to ambient drones with more a subtle and subdued musical component. Urbs, Sanfilippo's first project released with Hypnos Recordings, falls nicely in the middle ground among the artist's previous work. It's an intriguing combination of ambient textures with location sound recordings, along the lines of the classic Hypnos releases Sonic Continuum (Modell and Mantra) and Silence Speaks in Shadow (Paul Vnuk Jr.), but with more of an urban or cityscape flavor.
The title Urbs derives from the prominent incorporation urban sound environments, recorded by Sanfilippo in urban environments such as train stations, streets, bars and other public areas to explore the boundaries between the textural sounds which surround all of us day to day, and the nature of composed sound art such as music. These "real world" sound textures merge with more traditional electronics such as synthesizers and samplers, leaving no doubt as to the composed and "intentional" nature of these soundscapes.
Gentle and evocative, subtly textural and transporting, Urbs is something we genuinely expect to become a long-term favorite among Hypnos releases.
Track listing, with mp3 sample clips:
1 - Urban Flow - 14:41
2 - The City Reflected - 20:20
3 - Chaotic Order - 25:29
4 - The Gray Umbrella - 06:58
Purchase for $12.99 on Hypnos Online Store
Purchase for $12.99 on Hypnos Online Store
Reviews"Experimental ambient and expressive field recordings.
STYLE This deeply evocative album centres upon carefully selected urban field recordings gathered by Bruno Sanfilippo from such diverse locations as churches, train stations, subway platforms, streets and bars. Apart from sounds of Grand Central Station in New York, the recordings were obtained within the cities of Europe using just an iPod Touch. Not just textures to add interest to the more crafted sounds of music; these ghostly audio presences are the main forms within these blurry ethereal soundscapes. The opening track blends intriguing noise and dream-like musical abstraction from the very start: delicate tonal swells, twinkles and electronic burbles harmonise with soft footfalls, percussive disturbances, metallic clatter and echoing human hubbub. The second track The City Reflected has a somewhat harsher sound for the first fourteen minutes or so than its predecessor - distant voice fragments and turbulent movements hang among dissonant bell tones and uneasy synth pads. The conclusion softens into hypnotic harmony and leads comfortably into Chaotic Order a twenty-five-and-a-half minute nocturne of welling beauty and environmental sounds presented as if refracted through a heavy veil of sleep. The relatively brief end piece drifts in elegant meandering half slumber - muted chimes and far-off social interactions beclouded by sonic fog.
ARTWORK This glossy two-panel digipack follows the current Hypnos format: broad black upper border with expressive photo-imagery below. Ambiguous urban abstracts of turquoise and red light patterns fill both inside and outside spreads. Repeating fluid swirls pool and flow in and out of shadow like a night-time city in the drenched in rain. Cover notes reveal that the imagery was "captured inside a bus in Berlin City." The rear cover lists the four tracks against their respective times with a quotation from Aristotle musing upon the relationship of an individual to society. Inside, the right panel supports the disc in a clear plastic grip; the left delivers recording information; thoughts on the nature of the music and relevant contact details.
OVERALL Bruno Sanfilippo plunges further and further into the abstruse depths of ambient experimentation with this new release - leaving his more melodic new age origins far behind. This is the first release by the Spanish musician on the renowned Hypnos label and a mighty introduction it is: bold, confident, luxurious and expansive. Here Bruno Sanfilippo has softened his sound palette into such subtle tones that it is pleasingly difficult to define "the boundary between [musical] sound and noise." The usually inexpressive noise of the city becomes another instrument in the arsenal of this skilled audio-sculptor. The four tracks are of fourteen minutes forty-one; twenty minutes twenty seconds; twenty-five twenty-nine and six minutes fifty-eight seconds respectively. You can explore the music at Hypnos or the official Bruno Sanfilippo website."
--Review by Electronic Music Mall
"On “Urbs”, Bruno Sanfilippo introduces the listener in the amazing world of city soundscapes and its vast array of noises. Bruno tried to merge this mysterious alchemy from a punctual approach, discrete in elements and discourses.
“Urbs” offers a spacious, mysterious and above all hypnotizing sonic ride through the multiple dimensions of inner city life in four lengthy tracks. Don’t think this is kind of background music as the gliding and gradually shifting effect of noises and field recordings melted together demands focussed listening.
I’m personally not too amused by the occasional, slightly distracting experimental cracks and noises as employed in “Chaotic Order” (with its 25-minute duration the longest track on the album).
Fortunately, a sense of harmony and stillness slides back on “The Gray Umbrella”, in a way slightly approaching Vangelis “Bladerunner” atmosphere.
All in all, “Urbs” makes an intense listening experience."
--Review by Bert Strolenberg, sonicimmersion.org
"Field recordings are the key elements of "Urbs" and "BIOMA", the last two albums of Bruno Sanfilippo (on "BIOMA" he was joined by his fellow soundscaper, Max Corbacho). While on "BIOMA" documenting the life of a nature, on "Urbs" Bruno has decided to focus on everyday's life of a city, when collecting location recordings from various European metropoles plus New York by mapping surrounding environments like train or subway stations, streets, bars, churches... This brand new album, Bruno's 16th when counting also his collaborations with Mathias Grassow or above mentioned Max Corbacho, is not only his premiere work for renowned Hypnos label, but also a quite radical departure from all his previous works that are spanning from rather ambient/new age oriented, through deeper organic or cinematic ambience to modern classical influenced. Bruno Sanfilippo is now venturing with "Urbs" into more minimal soundscaping with gently portrayed pulsing life of the city. To be honest, without knowing the name of the artist who is behind "Urbs", I would never connect it to Bruno Sanfilippo. But don't be afraid, because this chameleonic change is not only totally adventurous, but also proving the unlimited creativity and considerable talent of this sound architect (born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but residing in Barcelona, Spain). "Urban Flow" is perfectly chosen name for opening piece, with dominating colder on-site recordings of various rumblings, noises, buzzes, creaks or squeaks, all wrapped by hazed nocturnal atmosphere and masterfully merged with deeply evocative drones and assorted mesmerizingly or mysteriously emerging voice and choir samples. Wow, this is absolutely phenomenal, nearly 15-minute intro!!! Grandioso & mágico, Bruno!!! Voice transmissions unfold the next piece, "The City Reflected", clocking over 20 minutes. Deep, nearly ear-bending echoes, various rumblings, mysteriously odd voices enter the stage as well, everything harmoniously crafted and bridged, and superbly evoking a place similar to some underground lively corridor. Cascading sonic palette is minimal, but intense and maximally effective. "Chaotic Order", a 25 and half minutes long opus reveals with deeper drones, again enriched by distant conversations and various street rumblings, serenely drifting before entering during the second third into slightly more active areas with glitchy and hissy elements invading. The last third returns to more mysterious and droning course with assorted noises, breathings and voices on the back. Definitely another deeply absorbing masterpiece!!! The closing piece, 7-minute "The Gray Umbrella", is colored by various voice recordings, possibly the most textured sonic escapade slowly moving towards the end into minimal and quieter, nearly meditative outro. "Urbs" is stirringly challenging and refreshing, carefully sculpted and fused into amazingly homogeneous structure, with strong attention paid to every detail. This album delivers enormous amount of spectacular listening moments and transports each listener into magnificently immersing urban environments. Bravo to Bruno Sanfilippo, bravo to Hypnos!!!"
--review by Richard Gurtler, here
"The debut CD on Hypnos by Spanish ambient maestro Bruno Sanfilippo could not possibly be any more impressive. In fact, to these ears it is one of the finest discs Hypnos has released in the last 15 years. "Urbs", a strange title which makes sense when you discover the urban theme of the music, plays like an alternative, and more ambient, soundtrack to Ridley Scott's 1982 masterpiece "Blade Runner." The striking cover imagery of a photo of Berlin taken through a bus window gives a hint of the surreal soundscapes contained within, which could describe both an urban city and all its stories and emotions, or simultaneously the landing of a spacecraft on a barren and undisturbed extra-solar planet. Sanfilippo utilized only the Korg Radias synthesizer, samplers, and field recordings (of churches, cityscapes, subways, and bars), focusing on the "less is more" approach to sound design, making the music feel open, spacious, and uncluttered. And seemingly, not a sound is out of place as the music unfolds like a radiant dream, a dream which you never want to end. The album is broken up into four tracks but plays like one long track, the first three averaging 20 minutes a piece. This kind of urban environmental ambient has been done before by other artists--check out Paul Vnuk's "Silence Speaks in Shadow" on Hypnos, or Pete Namlook and Charles Edwards' "Create" series on Fax--but "Urbs" never sounds derivative of those or cliched in any way. And that's probably because the sounds employed on the album are just so jaw-droppingly, viscerally ethereal and beautiful that "Urbs" actually should have been the album to inspire those works. The first two pieces, "Urban Flow" and "The City Reflected," set the stage with gritty, shadowy (but not dark) sound design; "The City Reflected" then morphs into some melodic synth motifs that are incredibly pastoral and calming (I am reminded here of Namlook/Inoue's classic "2350 Broadway" album, which explored similar urban themes). The third piece, "Chaotic Order," the longest, at over 25 minutes, begins with lush, beautiful melodic sine waves over city soundscapes of streets, voices, etc; here I'm reminded of Steve Roach's classic "Structures from Silence." Slowly, some ultra-ethereal blips echo in and out (Tetsu Inoue fans take note) as the track continues its majestic path, pulling you from downtown to the Moon and back again. Later in the piece, some glitchy sounds add some grittiness to the rainy streets. The final 7-minute piece, "The Gray Umbrella," opens with heavily reverberated field recordings of voices in a train station, followed by some incredible metallic sounding synth tones that continue the pastoral feel of the album and create a perfect close. What a phenomenal album! "Urbs" has my highest recommendation, and is easily the best ambient album I have heard so far in 2012. Congratulations Bruno Sanfilippo on an instant classic and unforgettable masterpiece."
--review by Hypnos Forum member Drone On, here
"It looks like Hypnos hit the bullseye with this splendid release. It's already among my top favorites. Bruno's best by far IMHO.... This music deserves a mountain of praise. Congrats to Hypnos for such a memorable release."
--comment from customer Joe Pe via email