Album Title: 
Shortwave Spectrum
Release Date: 
Friday, November 24, 2023
Review Type: 


Location: Italy

Members: Raffaele Pezzella

Production, mix, mastering: Raffaele Pezzella

Artwork: Abby Helasdottir

Type: double-CD in gatefold ecopack

Duration: 91:20


The Sonologyst project is known for its inspiration through aural examinations, explorations and representations, with a focus on field recordings, found sounds and unidentified noises from organic and cosmic origin as main influence. More or less, at least, for there is much more behind this specific outfit by multi-disciplinary artist Raffaele Pezzella. This time is not different.

Shortwave Spectrum must be considered a ‘sonic documentary’, focusing on shortwave transmissions. It investigates a period that spans about for decennia, I mean, Raffaele did base himself on different sounds from known and unknown sources as from 1982 to 2021. Transmission and radio-waves, from different frequencies and often unidentified, mysterious sources (the bio mentions ‘clandestine’) are the basement for the sonic efforts on this double-album.

For this specific Sonologyst release, Raffaele joined forces once more with Cold Spring Records. This unfiltered glimpse into the world of clandestine communication comes in a two-folded digipack (gatefold-format) with fitting (cover) artwork by this label’s long-time collaborator Abby Helasdottir (like always: ingeniously created visual art!).

Both discs do differ slightly from each-other, although the basic essence remains comparable: those aforementioned short-wavy sound-sources. The first disc consists of six individual (yet somehow coherent) pieces, based on secret messages from the Cold War (note from the author (me indeed): the former one, not the current cold war activities in between West and East). The sources come from messages and other communication originating from covert radio stations engaged in military and espionage endeavours (cf. the bio). It might seem a strange combination, yet the interplay of found sound sources (with bleeps and crackles, malformed voices, pulsating loops and oscillating effects) with (analogue) keyboard orchestrations results in a remarkable, astonishing experience. Sonologyst’s strategy is to assimilate secretive field recordings of that pre-technological kind, with the bare essence of deep-droning and electroacoustic-laden, strongly cinematic Ambient Music. Despite not being rooted in horrific, ominous or ceremonial nature, the outcome is breath-taking and scorching. It has that outer-worldly atmosphere, which gets strengthened by the impending minimalistic attitude. Isolation and void as aural inspiration, it disturbs and it sooths. Notwithstanding the monotone sound-palette, these six chapters all have their specific nuances: sometimes down-tuned and rumbling, once in a while led by pulverizing basses; or then again, in contrast, being draped around dusty, nebulous waves.

Disc two consists of one lengthy effort (called Shortwaves, clocking forty-two minutes) and it provides a deeper immersion into these enigmatic broadcasts (also taken from the bio). It’s based once more on secret communication and message-codifying. The emphasis, however, focuses on field-recorded noises especially: the aforementioned voices, the secret messages and signals, the numeric sequences and surreptitious frequencies - as a matter of fact, it is the integral recording from which samples got used on the first disc (an in-depth documentary mission). It looks like getting injected by sometimes unexpected found sounds (disorientating glitches, fragments from television and fm-radio programs, distant ticks and clicks, and carefully selected segments from Classical Music and Music from the first half of the former century(!)), for this total 'documentary' is much more 'full' or 'complete', of course. The initial ‘musical’ aspect (i.e. the Ambient / Drone rooted synthesizer performance), the again, now appears rather as a somewhat static support at the background, like a labile sound-wall developed to sculp a psychotic, neurologically conflicting mind-twist.

The lengthy album Shortwave Spectrum is not an easy-to-digest experience. Yet then again: what did you expect from the Sonologyst project? With this double-album, Raffaele created an amorphous sonic experiment with a profound out-of-the-box-thinking attitude. At the one side, the Ambient / Drone (disc one) or Ambient Noise Wall (second disc), and at the other the huge amount of samples and sounds, get canalized into a disturbing, uncomfortable, yet quite intriguing journey, which might accompany you, the listener, through microcosmic transcendence.