Monday, October 15, 2012

Maelstrom - Change Of Season (EP) (2012)

It seems to be an odd statement, but the most important quality that all musicians must possess is vision. Not the 20/20 kind that allows you to read off of a paper, or see the groupies flashing you from the front row. But an ability to see into the future, to plan your work and stay an album ahead of the curve. For     Ferdinando Valsecchi, vision is his most valued asset. His previous album, "The Passage," was merely the starting point for so many things to come for his Maelstrom project. Months later, he has already re-recorded the next curve in the arc. From the original 2011 demo, this four track EP, "Change Of Season," Valsecchi takes the quarterly weather patterns, and puts them on disc, in the form of a mind altering piece of post metal.

It would be foolish for "Summer Breeze" to begin with anything other than a light wind and the sound of waves on the shore. But the sound of gulls isn't the true beauty here; that lies in the syncopated drum beats, and guitar groove. As the waves of distortion enter, the balance is striking, creating an airy, atmospheric background. His spoken words, done in his native Italian language, are the only thing to break the instrumental. Despite elements that may register this in your mind as a variation of shoegaze, there is simply too much positivity to be had, leaving you with a feeling of joy as each stanza passes. Even as we move on to "Autumn Leaves," there is something in the music that is both refreshing and humbling. Crying gulls give way to thunderstorms, and the entire tone of the music changes. It's as if you can feel the temperature dropping into a brisk chill, with each degree on the thermometer felt in each strum of the guitar. His vocals come through this time around, not only as spoken words but as clean singing. The burst of background distortion in the outro brings to mind bands like dredg and Sigur Ros, taking on a life of its own through a battery of programmed, but realistic, drums.

The cold grip of "Winter Snow" continues the journey, this time through a stark contrast between beautifully strummed acoustic guitars, and the chilling blasts of drums that follow. Each pluck of the guitar string is well placed, and expertly delivered, which is what makes the explosion of cymbals and rolling kicks all the more impactful. Like the season itself, the track balances quiet and loud, somber and fierce in a way that only Valsecchi seems to understand. And clocking in well over eight minutes, he captures that seemingly endless feeling that the cold brings on, when life slows down and weighs on you like the blizzard. But this, too, shall pass. And "Waiting For The Spring" is a rebirth, a renewal of spirit and sound. It is a slow process, as the sun melts the remaining snow; so, too, must his light guitar riffs build and evolve. As time passes, they gain momentum, building from something so simple into a more passionate tempo. Once again, the drums are a bright spot, laying down a beat that you could march to, or wake up to. The bursts of guitar take the sun higher into the sky, warming the ground beneath your feet and giving way to a bounty of green grass and new life. Every bit of it, captured in the notes and chord changes of a guitar.

That vision, the one that allows a band or artist to see into their musical future, is the same vision that helps to create the stunning imagery that music of this nature carries with it. Valsecchi is an artist in every sense of the word, painting a picture in the minds of his listeners, while giving their ears something to echo and enjoy. Maelstrom is a project that is as much about those visuals as it is about music. And the true beauty of it all lies in the fact that everyone who hears this album will see something different. After a few listens, the tracks and the imagery will become inseparable, which is impressive in and of itself. It leaves you to wonder: now that Valsecchi has taken on the calendar on "Change Of Season," what could be next?


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