The Human Web
Text: Robin Boer
The Human Web
Text: Robin Boer
Recently, polyhedric drummer, composer and improviser Francesca Remigi released her second album 'The Human Web', which is the follow-up to the 2021 published 'Il Labirinto Dei Topi' which was performed by her ensemble 'Archipélagos.' The album was praised highly by the likes of Steve Lehman and Linda May Han Oh, and it was certainly one of Progjazz' highest ranked releases of last year.
The Boston based Remigi, originally comes from Bergamo (Italy) can profile herself as an alumna of the Berklee Global Institute [note 1] and one of the founders of the independent label 'Habitable Records.'
'The Human Web' is so much more than just another album with a bunch of random pieces that share little or no relation to each other. Actually, there is a lot of message in this music. It is fascinating how Remigi manages to translate the toxic elements of contemporary lifestyle (where pop culture's stereotypes and social construct basically are in too much control of people's life's choices and models) to these eight compositions. To bring this music to life, Remigi hired quite an ensemble of almost twenty musicians. Main topics throughout the album are self-validation through social media, technological escapism and social self-isolation.
Both the compositions and the musicianship are impressive again. The opening track 'Metamorfosi' deals with different psycho-emotional states a person can go through as a result of diseases like depression, anxiety or eating disorders. Spoken word (Italian), wordless vocals, presented in often dissonant harmonies and challenging intervals are interspersed with swapping time signatures, powerfully drummed syncope rhythms and intense improvisations on different wood instruments like saxophone and clarinet. But also synthesizer patterns and various sound effects are representing the different algorithms that influence people's beliefs and convictions so radically. A piece like 'Trance' is reflecting this quite accurately.
The dark, destructive side of spending a lot of time in the virtual world where people with bad intentions are targeting the more sensitive people of our society is being translated into sound on 'Lost Generation.' Staccato notes on violin and upright bass, playing a repetitive series of intervals, are joined by bass clarinet and alto-saxophone throughout this exciting piece.
What we show is not who we are. In order to meet social expectations, we are wearing masks and hiding our true self. On 'Mere Appearance & True Being' we do hear the voice of Claire Parsons, who also guested on 'Il Labrinto dei Topi.' After the thrilling mid section, the piece concludes with Parsons' 'suffering' vocals and electronics, illustrated by Sonya Belaya on piano.
Follia is a beautiful twelve-tone chamber music composition where cello, piano, acoustic guitar and woodwinds are interplaying brilliantly.
Things turn more intense again in the masterful title track, starting with an energetic 11/8, flowing into a more calm section with interesting vocal lines which are very well merging with the various string- and woodwind instruments. The piece is inspired by the writer William H. McNeill's book and concept of 'The Human Web.' Remigi created “a web-shaped graphic score that visually represent the set of virtual connections that link people to one another around the globe.” It reflects the more positive side of connecting possibilities the world wide web is offering.
The evocative 'Inside the Algorithm' was “created by using the Google Page Rank algorithm as a musical cryptogram from which extrapolating a series of pitches and rhythmic sequences.”
Some sections are bloodcurdling and there is so much going on here, pushing the (adventurous) listener to different places effortlessly.
The album concludes with the intimate 'Home Body:' a solo violin piece, performed by Anais Drago, reflecting on the natural beauty of women, self-love and body acceptance, empowering response to the pressuring way how society expects women to look, dress and act in a certain way, especially on social media, where images are shared quickly and widely all the time.
All musicians on the album recorded their parts from home. The production very clearly represents each instrument's role in detail. To our personal taste, similar to 'Il Labirinto Dei Topi', the excessive and impressive drumming by Remigi sounds a bit dry and thin, making it fit well into the chamber music type of ensemble, though might benefit from some subtle FX to channel a bit more power to the overall sound palette, in which we already hear a granular improvement on the sound and mix of the debut.
Not a comfortable, but a thrilling journey
'The Human Web' Remigi's shows it's an urgent illustration of the current world, where the (mostly) negative outcome of how the technological possibilities of today are impacting society, identity and mental health. Music does not always necessarily has to provide comfort, and, in this case, considering the composer's narrative, it surely shouldn't. What it does provide, is both food for thought on the topic, and, at the same time, an absolutely thrilling journey through the composer's creative mind, brought to live by an ensemble of extraordinary musicians.
All musicians recorded their parts at home during 2021. It has been released on March 23 of this year on Habitable Records. Works from this record have been converted for contemporary dance performances. Watch the whole performance (recorded at Splendor, Amsterdam) here.
[note 1] Berklee alumni are valuable members of a lifelong and global Berklee community. As alumnus, you are considered an ambassador of the institution, a trailblazer in music and beyond, and a generous supporter of what they do.
2 Lost Generation
4 Mere Appearance & True Being
6 The Human Web
7 Inside the Algorithm
8 Home Body
Marta Giulioni (1), Nadia Washington (6), Davide Cerreta (6) – vocals
Claire Parsons (4) – vocals, electronics
Anais Drago (1,8), Angela Varo Moreno (2,4) – violin
Soojung Lee (2) – alto sax
Camila Nebbia (4), Alex Rashad (2), Andrew Saragossi (1) – tenor sax
Nish Manjunath (6,7) – tenor sax, electronics
Federico Calcagno (1,2,4,5) – bass clarinet, clarinet
Livio Bartolo (7), Killick Hinds (3) – guitar, synths, electronics
Heikki Ruokangas (3) – acoustic guitar
Sonya Belaya (4) – prepared piano
Naomi Nakanishi (7), Suwon Yim (6) – piano, synths
Summer Kodama (7) , Liany Mateo (6), Helen Svoboda (1),
Aretha Tillotson (2,4), Stefano Zambon (3) – upright bass
Francesca Remigi (1,3,4,6,7) – drums
All tracks are composed and arranged by Francesca Remigi