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deadrow77 “Dark Waves For Little Greys”

Operating out of the south of France, Facthedral’s Hall has been releasing music since 1997, all of it on CDR until now, with Deadrow77’s double-CD collection (500 copies available) the underground label’s first formally manufactured release. That’s not the only interesting thing about the project: the album’s twenty-nine instrumentals were recorded by Fabien Della Roma, a farmer who grows organic Saffron in the Oriental Pyrenees mountains, in his caravan using an Arturia MiniLab 25 synthesizer as the sole sound-generator. The majority of these spontaneous improvisations were recorded in a single take and have been sequenced in chronological order, the first CD presenting those produced in 2013 and the second in 2014.Each track is a self-contained electronic scene-painting of ambient-electro character; they’re mood paintings, too, that range between the darkest of excursions to ones of considerably lighter disposition. There are few dips in quality, and Deadrow77 guides us through everything from gothic cathedrals to underground caverns on this in-depth darkwave collection. He’s clearly got a gift for melody, and that each multi-layered production came into being as an improv makes the accomplishment all the more impressive. Titles such as “Ghost Trap”, “Carbon Circus”, and “Knockin’ D. Lynch’s Door” convey some of the tracks’ musical character all by themselves, and the arrangements are rich in sonorities, rhythms, and textures. From the jaunty (“Poob Knight”) and medieval (“Queen’s Death”) to the spacey (“Leaving Earth”) and meditative (“Birthnight Today”), the release has all the bases pretty much covered.The Arturia MiniLab 25 synthesizer obviously has much to offer with respect to the range of sounds that can be coaxed from it (one could be forgiven for thinking that a harpsichord’s featured in “Melancholia Tribe,” for example). Still, at 110 minutes there’s more Deadrow77 material here than one admittedly needs, and a single-CD overview drawn from the discs’ content would have sufficed. That being said, it’s hard not to be struck by the huge number of different song-like variations he’s generated on Dark Waves For Little Greys armed with nothing more than a single synthesizer and his own creative imagination.

CHAIN D.L.K. (U.S.A.), JULY 2016 :
Deadrow77 is Fabien Della Roma, a farmer who grows organic saffron in the Oriental Pyrenees mountains. And now, the album was not made exclusively using farm implements, but exclusively using a MiniLab 25 Arturia synthesizer. This is the second release by Deadrow77, the first going all the way back to 2005, called ‘Mi-Figue/Mi-Raisin’. Man, that was a long time ago. I haven’t heard that one, so I can only tell you about ‘Dark Waves for Little Greys’. It’s a double album (2 CDs) comprised of 29 instrumental pieces. Don’t let that doggie on the cover fool you; I can’t find any connection with the animal and the music. The label, Facthedral’s Hall, describes the music as “a mix of of electro-ambient, electronica, dark, cosmic, psychedelic, tribal, medieval…” In places that may be true to some extent, but overall, that seems like a stretch. What you’re really getting is simple, quirky, melodic synthesizer pieces, with a slightly dark tone. Now the impressive thing is that the majority of these spontaneous improvisations were recorded in a single take. When you consider that, it makes a big, big difference. The CDs are ordered 2013 (CD1) and 2014 (CD2), which I would assume to reference when they were composed. Some of the track titles pay up the whimsical quirkiness as well – “My First Caroussel,” “Blind Tightrope Walker,” “Pariah’s Groove,” “Knockin’ D. Lynch’s Door,” “Psychic Bleeding,” “Sabatik Salsa,” “Birthnight Today,” “Carbon Circus,” and others. As for what it sounds like, well, imagine if you will, a instrumental collaboration between Tonto’s Expanding Headband (Malcolm Cecil & Robert Margouleff) and The Residents. It might sound something like this. The melody and structure is ultra-simple, but there is a wide variety of sounds employed. Often there is rhythm but it is electronic rather than any conventional drums or drum machine. Some of these melodies sound very serious, while others are sort of goofy. Circus fantasy, carnival, medieval, klezmer, Kraftwerk, and numerous other influences are at work here. To some extent, certain forms hearken back to the electronic experimentalism of the 70’s and 80’s. There is one track (“TechNoLogic Future”) that utilizes a similar rhythmic impetus as Wall of Voodoo’s “Ring of Fire.” Occasionally some of the electronic sounds employed resemble real instruments, but mostly it does not stray from its synthetic origins. Undoubtedly the listener will find some compositions more interesting than others. Due to their completely improvised nature, some tracks sound more like ideas for songs (demos) rather than completely fleshed-out songs. Still, it might serve well as background music for mimes or other non-verbal theatrical pieces, maybe even animation. It’s possible that the album could have been distilled down to a single CD’s worth of the best stuff, but the buyer who’s looking for the most bang for the buck should be amply rewarded. If you’re into peculiar melodic synthesizer compositions, then Deadrow77’s ‘Dark Waves for Little Greys’ is for you. Limited to 500 copies. 3,5/5

BAD ALCHEMY #91 (Ger.) September 2016 :
Post aus dem ‘provencalischen Venedig’ beschert mir ‘unwahrscheinliche Musik’. In DEADROW77 stoße ich auf den Absender, Le K., schlichter gesagt: Marc Reina, seit den frühen 90ern als Skrow mit Imperial und Sizzle ein Höllenfeuer spuckender Duzfreund des Chaos. Auch wenn er da angeblich nur die Spielereien eines Safranbauern in den Pyrenäen auf einem MiniLab 25 Arturia Synthie eingehegt hat. Dark Waves For Little Greys (FHcd14-2015, 2 x CD) ist zu meiner Überraschung keine Zwangseinweisung in eine schwarzmetallische Seelenschmiede, es ist eine elektropoppige Einladung zum Seiltanzen mit verbundenen Augen (‘Blind Tightrope Walker’) in eine ungewisse Zukunft (‚Uncertain Future‘). Das Arturia MiniLab liefert einen blechernen, jedenfalls unbombastischen Sound, der damit ein bescheidenes Zeitalter anzukündigen scheint. Mit asthmatischen Zügen und glockigen, gläsernen oder holzigen Schlägen und quarrendem oder zwitscherndem Puls wird man auf eine Epoche eingestimmt, die in weiterer Zukunft einmal als dunkle Zeit verzeichnet zu werden droht, als ein neues Mittelalter (‘Medieval Sprites Tek’), in der viele ihre Heimat verlassen (‘Exodus Destination’) und die Zurückgebliebenen als ‘Melancholia Tribe’ auf ein Ende der mageren Jahre hoffen. Nicht ohne das Beste daraus zu machen, so dass schon mal eine Flöte geblasen wird und dass der Synthie launig schnarrt beim Safrankrokusfest, bis die Turmuhr Mitternacht schlägt. Die synthetischen Tänzchen und gedämpften Klangfarben dieser sich, wie es heißt, der Laune des Augenblicks hingebenden Momentaufnahmen, entfalten einen Charme, der nur naiv scheint, wenn er einem Grau als halb Weiß (nicht halb Schwarz) offeriert. Andererseits bleibt der kleine Trauermarsch ‘Queen’s Death’ ein Trauermarsch, und die Blockflöten von ‘Birthnight Today’ lassen den Groove da nicht zu übermütig werden. Das Feierliche wirkt manchmal etwas bauchig georgelt und dadurch leicht pompös, wobei Franzosen ihren Birnenkönigen und Ubu Rois mit Ironie zu begegnen wissen. So auch hier. ‘Rainey Memories’ werden mit den Regenschirmen von Martigues umtänzelt. Die Orgelmelodie von ‘Walking Eastward’ wird mit Schlägen auf Zitterblech akzentuiert. Wenn das Synthiepop ist, dann wie aus der Zeit gefallen, wie in ein falsches Jahrhundert gerutscht. ‘Arena Fighting’ tuckert und rauscht mit aufgestelltem Kamm dahin. Der Rest ist… dunkle Materie.

DARK ENTRIES (Be.) October 14th 2016 :
deadrow77, als alter ego van Fabian Della Roma, die vanuit de Pyreneeën in zijn caravan met slechts behulp van een Arturia Minilab 25-synthesizer de klanken van de ambient improviseert en zo geluidstapijten tovert als klankbord voor donkere uitspattingen. Della Roma is een boer die saffraan kweekt, het rode goud dat gunstig zou zijn als anti-depressiva of als afrodisiacum. En het blijkt te werken in het geval deadrow77. Reeds in 2004 maakte hij voor Facthedral een eerste album Mi-Figue/Mi-Raisin waarbij de nummers als titel gewoon een cijfer meekregen. Het werd destijds enkel als CDR uitgebracht. Omdat het label Facthedral enkel CDR’s uitbracht en meer de status had van promotiekanaal te zijn. Deze Dark Waves For Little Greys is sinds het ontstaan van het label (1997) dan ook de allereerste uitgave van het label. Een dubbel-CD dan nog wel, gelimiteerd op 500 exemplaren. Ambient-klanken kunnen een verborgen diepere betekenis hebben, en zo ook in dit geval. Maar liefst 29 nummers die voor een groot gedeelte in 1 track werden opgenomen en uitsluitend werden gecreëerd in pure improvisatie. CD 1 bevat tracks die werden opgenomen in 2013, chronologisch gespreid over 14 instrumentals met zwartgallige titels als Uncertain Future, Better Hope, Melancholie Tribe en Exodus Destination. CD 2 is dan weer een verzameling componenten die ook weer improvisatorisch tot leven kwamen in 2014. Psychic Bleeding, Sabatik Salsa, Ghost Trap, Carbon Circus en Walking Eastward. Het zijn stuk voor stuk composities ontsproten uit het brein van Della Roma. Composities met een meerwaarde omdat ze vanuit de losse pols werden opgenomen. Ambient is dan misschien niet voor iedereen weggelegd. Deze Dark Waves For Little Greys beluister je het best in het donker, of toch op zijn minst met de ogen gesloten. En met hoofdtelefoon. Pas dan komen de laagjes tot zijn recht.

SIDE-LINE (Be.), October 15th 2017 : 
(…) Deadrow77 is a French solo-project driven by Fabien Della Roma. A first album was released a long time ago (2005) on Facthedral’s Hall while this new work has been introduced as improvisations that were accomplished in 2013 and 2014. (…) The first disc features cuts from 2013 and the second disc from 2014. There’s no real difference between both disc; the style and influences remain pretty similar. The work is characterized by simplicity. The sound is electronic, mainly into ambient- and cinematographic influences, but still feature minimal-electro passages and even a kind of ambient-EBM-sounds. I also noticed some tribal elements on the second disc. (…) One thing is for sure, this is the kind of album you are going to like or not! That’s an aspect I’ve always fully supported and especially because Deadrow77 deals with something different from the masses. It’s not a ‘standard’ sound, but an artist who tries to create his own sound and style. I like some of the raw sound sculptures, but especially the few cuts feature some tribal aspects on the second disc. (…) Despite of the original approach, I’m not into this kind of improvisation, which rapidly starts to be predictable. The DCD format will enchant the lovers of this band, but it’s definitely over the top for the others. There’s no real climax! I’m also missing the name of the band on the front cover; it’s a choice, but not exactly the best way to catch the attention! (…) Deadrow77 sounds like a real challenge; you’re either going to like it or not. There’s no way in between although I can imagine this work could be more credible when joined by some visual arts. (…)

DARKROOM (It.), March 13th 2018 :
È difficile recensire una uscita come questo “Dark Waves For Little Greys” del progetto Deadrow77, alias Fabien Della Roma, disco che esce a dodici anni dal precedente “Mi-Figue / Mi-Raisin”. Il nuovo disco è in realtà una doppia raccolta di pezzi scritti nel 2013 e nel 2014. Due ore di musica strumentale per 29 brani che traggono ispirazione dalla darkwave, dall’industrial e dalla musica elettronica. Un lavoro monumentale in termini di quantità, anche se le composizioni sembrano nascere da sperimentazioni improvvisate, senza un filo logico che le unisca. Si tratta quindi di piccole foto che ritraggono quel particolare momento creativo senza dare altri punti di riferimento. Nella marea di spunti che ci sono meritano menzione, ad esempio, “My First Carroussel”, una intro evocativa che fa da affascinante start all’elettronica dissonante di “Blind Tightrope Walker”. Poi in ordine sparso troviamo le contaminazioni etniche di “Melancholia Tribe” o “Pariah’s Groove”, il krautrock di “Deep Quest II” e anche una sorprendente inclinazione melodica come in “Exodus Destination”, dove un tema da soundtrack viene reso movimentato da una nervosa ritmica idm. “Dark Waves For Little Greys” è un disco indubbiamente ben fatto, ricco di spunti e trame sonore a volte anche originali. Soffre tuttavia di una forte frammentarietà che, alla lunga, rende l’ascolto difficile e pesante. Più che pezzi compiuti, i brani ricordano appunti di viaggio abbozzati su un foglio, piccole schegge di memoria registrate per caso. “Dark Waves For Little Greys” è un lavoro da ascoltare con molta pazienza e concentrazione per poterne assaporare le sfumature: se Fabien, nei prossimi lavori, saprà riuscire a ridurre le sovrastrutture che coprono le sue intuizioni, farà un deciso passo in avanti.
6,5/10 – Roberto Alessandro Filippozzi