Futuro Antico – Futuro Antico

Questi sono i Krauti

There is a lot to not like about YouTube. Not as much as about Spotify, but still quite a lot. But sometimes there are good moments. Like when you listen to something you like and forget to close the tab and the next piece of music comes up, and yet another one while you are busy doing what you are doing, letting the music just go on until you return from whatever you were immersed in and realize that you have no idea what you are listening to, having been forwarded to another point along the chain of titles that the algorithm calculated to be somehow related.

As much as I am doubtful that these algorithms do anything more than just calculate levels of correlation – at least you don’t end up with something stupid when you didn’t start with something stupid. It would be interesting though. Trying to figure out how many pieces of music it would take on YouTube to get from Futuro Antico to some K-Pop boy group, for example.

You might have guessed it already – I discovered this album when I suddenly found myself listening to something on YouTube that I never heard before but liked immediately. It’s a little sad that I am not sure where my accidental listening journey started, but I have a slight suspicion that it happened when I checked out a Wolfgang Voigt ambient track.

There I was, somewhere in the middle of “Ao – Ao”, the eleven minute opener of this album. A strange mix of synthesizer sounds, bells and chimes arranged to be just vaguely rhythmic, more ambient than anything, laying the ground for improvisations with a ney, a flute that has been used in Middle Eastern music for more than 4.000 years. Not that the way it is played here is in any way related to this tradition – it’s fully improvised, in a style that adds to the psychedelic dimension of the music.

Of course, I was curious. Drone synths and ancient flutes – the name of the project is more than fitting, with the added benefit of almost anything sounding great in Italian. The ancient future. It’s very much from the past, actually – the album was published in 1980, self-released on cassette tape, and then re-released twice on vinyl and CD. Not surprisingly, the re-release of 2018 is sold out, so I had to get the album on Discogs.

Two Italian guys were (or maybe even still are) behind this project – at least on this album. True to the concept of Futuro Antico one was more or less in charge of the future and one for the ancient part. Riccardo Sinigaglia was operating his Fender and various synthesizers (Moog and EMS primarily) and used his Revox to create all kinds of effects. His partner Walter Maioli primarily played the flute, but also experimented with other ancient instruments such as the bullroarer, a long flat carved wooden object that is swung in circles on a string to create very unique vibrato sounds. Its origins date back an astonishing 18.000 years.

Even within a more graspable time frame, the Futuro Antico concept is a good way to describe what we hear. There is a clear feel of seventies experimentation, a late hippie attitude that lets this sound a little retro even if you look at it from the time of its conception in 1980. The extensive use of synthesizers on the other hand is not really part of such an approach to music – at least not at a time when world music and electronic music were still clearly in separate camps.

On the second track “Schirak” the rhythmic elements are more pronounced, supported by what Sinigaglia is doing on his organ, almost sounding like Phil Manzarek trying out melodic loops and creating variations of them at the same time. After a few minutes of it the impression starts emerging that we are listening to an obscure Kraut Rock band doing a super spaced out live gig, vaguely inspired by Kraftwerk’s early work when Florian Schneider still frequently played the flute.

This Kraut Rock feel is intensified on “Uata Aka”, with an even more pronounced and linear rhythm and an atmosphere that heavily suggests a jam session rather than a planned studio recording. There are moments when it even gets kind of funky and bluesy. Sometimes you think you can almost feel how the guys are exploring what is happening and thinking where to take it next.

The album closes with the title track – and in a way it takes the concept to the extreme by dropping all rhythm and creating a rather ominous ambient suite that sounds both archaic and futuristic. It’s as if the most distant past and the most distant future are both rather raw and frightening. My associations turned towards a movie that was filmed the same year, “Altered States” with William Hurt, in which Hurt plays a professor that is using hallucinogenic drugs and sensory deprivation in order to induce a state of biological devolution. A pretty scary trip.

Even with the final track being a little dire here and there this journey to the ancient future is a rewarding one. And I am already wondering what I will discover next time I am accidentally going on a YouTube algorithm music lottery. I hope it’s as good as this.

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