August 6, 2009

Alio Die - Password To Entheogenic Experience (1998, Hic Sunt Leones)

Alio Die is the ambient project of Italian musician Stefano Musso. Since the early '90s, Stefano has been running his own Hic Sunt Leones label, releasing CDs of his own and many other contemporary Italian ambient artists. His first CD "Under An Holy Ritual" was released in the US in '93 by influential gothic/darkwave label Projekt, and generated a lot of attention in that scene. In '97, Stefano collaborated with ambient pioneer and originator of the "sleep concert", Robert Rich on the "Fissures" album, released on Fathom, a sub-label of Hearts Of Space, home of Steve Roach, Michael Stearns and others throughout the '90s. Alio Die makes use of many organic instruments such as frame drums, gongs, bells and stringed instruments along with field recordings and mellow electronic sounds to sculpt meditative, introspective textures. "Password For Entheogenic Experience" was a personal favorite of mine, consisting of one long track lasting a little over an hour. Beginning with the soft buzz of insect noise and birds, the album slowly slides into an endless drone of what sound alternatingly like bowed strings and soft horns, playing a gentle sustaining chord that is both soothing and mysterious. The meditative, other-wordly energy of the album is expressed by the ancient mushroom shaman artwork on the cover. The drone is occasionally punctuated by soft frame drum and chimes, as the tones rise and fall in amplitude, until the last ten minutes or so when a crescendo beings to build, suggestive of buzzing reeds or obscure Asian instruments. The album is timeless and calming, and one I've returned to many times. Stefano has continued releasing albums every year, and has recently been playing shows in Europe.