A Sophisticated Adventuress. Between Vanishing Twin and Tomaga: Valentina Magaletti

… and just when no one was looking in that direction, new and unexpected dispatches came from the more residential and hipster part of our musical city.

We allude to those residential neighborhoods inhabited mostly by British musicians who have passion for vintage, deal with post-modernism and modern antiques and are crazy for pop (not the cheap one, though) played with a ‘jazzy arty & blasèe approach for which we only forgive certain beautiful girls portrayed in the films by Jean Luc Godard.

Over the years, those apartments have been occupied by different bands that are worthy of our appreciation. Laetitia Sadier and Tim Gane of Stereolab lived there for several years (and apparently have been recently seen again in these places) and, attending those streets, one could run into characters of the caliber of Trish Keenan before she was snatched from her Broadcast by a sometimes really wicked destiny or from Rosie Cuckston who together with her Prams recently returned to make her voice heard.

But we talked about new dispatches: in recent years, when we looked closely at the sender of the packages delivered by bands like Soundcarriers and Beautiful Junkyard, we had the suspicion that those areas were beginning to being vital and productive again… but now to dispel any doubts here comes the Vanishing Twin. We corroborate this affirmation, calling to witness the two records of the band (there are also a couple of EPs) “Choose Your Own Adventure” (of 2016) and “The Age of Immunology” (recently released) which in great detail of particulars and a peculiar sense of adventure play with a very personal universe inhabited by liquid grooves injected intravenously thanks to drums that move seamlessly from jazz to avant and to a bass that nicely massages the whole sound like cotton. A universe where lazy female voices resound for the narcosis of drowsiness toying with cotton wool made up of toy instruments, vintage electronics, vibraphones, tablas, found and / or sampled sounds and by a general (and with the right amount of retromania) feeling of enveloping library music.

So, ladies and gentlemen… the Vanishing Twin! Certainly it’s one of the bands of the moment, and we are certain you will find it in many end-of-year rankings. Looking around you will read nothing but how they are succeeding in reviving the splendor of that sophisticated pop we mentioned earlier. But … listening to this band suggested us other ways and paths. Trying to unravel the mystery of their esoteric and elusive music, we have convinced ourselves that we have found the element that maintains the balance between its various components: the drumming of Valentina Magaletti. In short, the Vanishing Twin reminded us of those groups in which the drummer is so important for the musical balance up to the point that it absolutely connotes its identity.

We are talking about people like Jaki Liebezeit from Can, Damon Che from Don Caballero or Kid Millions from Oneida. A group of sacred monsters in which we’d like to include the very Italian Valentina Magaletti, drummer of Vanishing Twin as well as of many other interesting projects. A challenging comparison, we know, but if – like us – you have seen Valentina playing live maybe you would immediately agree … So we decided to talk to you, more about the drummer, hoping that this could be worth as (poor..) compensation for every sound that impregnates the skins of her drums than the group that is on everyone’s mouth today.

So let’s start right from Vanishing Twin, which we have already mentioned. Probably the guilty for the birth of the band was 2015 split EP “Play Time: Music For Video Games” published by the singer-songwriter Cathy Lucas, who, after leaving Fanfarlo (a British band that also had the title of albionic next big thing for fifteen minutes…), begun to release solo works under the pseudonym of Orlando. The other band that shared the publication was Tomaga, an Italian-English duo formed Valentina Magaletti on drums and percussions and Tom Relleen on bass and electronic devices. Evidently, in composing music for imaginary video games (this is the theme of the recordings …), an understanding was born between the two girls that would soon lead them to the creation of Vanishing Twin. Japanese bassist Susumu Mukai (aka Zongamin), guitarist Phil MFU (for Man From Uranus) and filmmaker / visual artist Elliott Arndt on flute and percussion completed the lineup.

The creature that takes form is, at least programmatically, shaped by Cathy who chooses the name inspired by its dead twin (or “absorbed”, alluding to the scientific theory that the fetus died at the cellular level is precisely absorbed in the survivor). The first record of the band “Choose Your Own Adventure” is produced by Malcolm Catto of Heliocentrics (an artist who knows the meaning of the word “groove”..) in his London studio, the Quatermass Sound Lab (talking about British vintage myths) and it’s dedicated to the memory of his vanished brother, from whom the singer believes to have absorbed the cells.

The intellectual taste for strange theories continues with the homage paid by the title of their latest work “The age of immunology” (which recalls the theory of anthropologist A. David Napier according to which the scientific idea of ​​the elimination of “Non Self” has moved from the world of medicine to the social world with catastrophic results for human coexistence). The new work is produced by Cathy Lucas herself and is recorded in different locations resulting in a record divided in a more structured and accessible first part, which ideally ends with the pop apotheosis of “Musician’s success” and a second one in which the group indulge in free digressions, spoken word and a feeling of psychedelic drift. The two parts are held together by the groove supplied by the effective rhythm section formed by Valentina Magaletti / Susumu Mikai. In particular, the Apulian musician creates a discrete and underground rhythmic carpet however constantly aimed at enriching the sound palette of the band with polyrhythms and chromatic accents.

An expressive richness that wins the limelight of the scene in her other project, Tomaga. In the sound of band shared with Tom Relleen, born as a result of the common experience as a rhythm section in the psychedelic project of Demian Castellanos The Oscillation, you can in fact feel and breathe a stronger freedom because also of the avant and impro nature of the duo. Their music avoids sudden breaks in favor of a constantly changing sound characterized by the color provided by the instruments used from time to time. Tomaga is curious and pleasantly wavering, being guided by an almost infinite sample of purchased or self-made instruments and objects used unconventionally to emit sound: marimba, oscillators, peculiar drum kits, metal boxes, gravel bags, tuned percussions.

Tomaga’s music is born from the desire to overcome the conventional perspective of the bands that often sees bass and drums as gregarious elements, putting the rhythmic aspect in the foreground. This aspect is developed to the point that in some episodes the relationships between rhythm and harmony are reversed: in the foreground we find the rhythmic skeleton of the piece, while the harmonic structure composed of bass lines, varied and electronic noises often occupies the background of the scene.

This approach gives the band a strong identity despite the fact that their conspicuous production is extremely heterogeneous and composed of quite different episodes even within the same album.

In six years of activity, the band publishes almost a record every year and duration of each album is short… or better to say, right!

The adult debut of “Futura Grotesk” in 2014 (the first was the cassette “Sleepy jazz for tired cats” in 2013) ranges from the percussive minimalism of “Malintesi” to the sound abstractions of “Taste The Indifference” and “Long Term Green “, that are disturbed by various noises and clangs, or even from the kraut atmospheres almost like Oneida in slow motion of ” Mountain Opener “ to the syncopated rhythms punctuated by vintage keyboards of the splendid title track.

The second work “The shape of the dance” of 2016 manages to amalgamate the different impulses even better, presenting itself as a sound apnea of ​​34 minutes which in our opinion stands up as the most complete and mature work of the duo. The harsh sounds of “Tuscan Metalwork” superbly summarize all the facets of Tomaga sound. The superb title track offers us a post-rock with “Tortoisian” ancestry shrouded in echoes and almost dub sounds. A lesson in minimalism that we also find in the hypnotic “Perspective with no end” built around the bass and the marimba and in the reverberated sounds of the enveloping “Gonda’s Dream” while “Scaccomatto” represents the most abstract and noisy moment.

“Memory in Vivo Exposure” of 2017 is dominated by the ponderous 16 minutes title track, divided into a more animated first part and a more atmospheric and minimalist second one that slowly develops around a marimba pattern.

“Music for visual disorder” of 2018 is their most atypical work. If the first song “Bones and sky” shows the usual percussive minimalism, the rest of the album rattles off a series of atmospheric tracks that in some episodes forgo a traditional rhythm (the case of “The Whitest light” and “Are we all Water ? ”) and in others it is characterized by a percussive and abstract noise such as ” Il grido del Martello “ and ” Chiodi “.

Finally we get to the beautiful and freshly printed “Extended play 1“. The first song “Bluest” is one of their best track and it immediately wins with an enveloping hybrid of blues, dub atmospheres, tribal rhythms and exotic sounds. There is no shortage of surprises as we can see in the abstract but swinging jazz of “Rabbits Of The Void”, the tribal percussion orgy of “Squeek and Chatter”, the free and noise electronics of “Let’s Twist Again” (sic!) and the cinematics “Lilith Waves” infested with creepy electronic disturbances.

This short list is certainly not exhaustive about duo’s activity: there are also ep, remixes and various collaborations that the band has collected in its short life, showing everyone which degree of freedom music can achieve if it is untied from any preconceived bonds or borders.

The same spirit of freedom that we find in every Magaletti’s activity. An artist that’s able to move from the dark and industrial electronics of the extraordinary Raime for which she played the skeletal drum patterns, then reworked by the London duo for drawing up their desolate and apocalyptic landscapes, up to the collaboration with some sacred monsters of the British scene such as Graham Lewis and Matthew Simms of Wire and keyboardist Thighpaulsandra (weird icon already seen in Coil, Spiritualized and Julian Cope). The four musicians gave birth to UUUU. The band currently published in 2017 a self-titled album, a dense and maximalist work, saturated with noise and industrial percussion alternating post rock, cosmic kraut, noise brutal and very dark ambient.

After Vanishing Twin, Tomaga, Raime and UUUU, there would still be many collaborations and various other projects in which you find (or found) Italian musician engaged and we can assure you that these are never less than interesting. All that remains is to hope that this list keeps going on hand in hand with the genuine passion and the reckless sense of adventure that we have seen so far in her career and that Valentina continues to supply fuel to the beat of the most free and unconventional music.

By Mason & Dixon

Originally published in italian on August 06 2019
Republished in english on August 11 2019

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