Active since 1985, Italy’s Sigillum S has a very long history of inexplicable electronics exploration. This latest recording is no exception. Led by Eraldo Bernocchi, this album also includes Paolo Bandera and Bruno Dorella in the lineup. This time around, they appear to be bringing their harsh atmospheres to a space colonization theme, not that one would recognize that from listening.
The band has always provided excessively long cyberpunk song titles, and the opening “Occult Storage for Pan-Dronic Glossolalia” is comparatively concise. Kicking off the album with wave upon wave of electronic hissing and buzzing, feedback tones, and noise, breaking apart to isolate a heartbeat pulse and warped vocal sounds until the noise re-enters, it’s a harrowing trip through a field of sonic tension that sets the stage for the album. From there, the trio take the listener through a cornucopia of strange electronic fields. The years have perhaps given Sigillum S a glossier sheen to their instrumentation — even the outsiders feel the need to modernize kit — but it hasn’t smoothed out their incessant restlessness.
The synth arpeggios that drive “Genetically-Engineered Insects” bring to mind the cybernetic pulses of a John Carpenter soundtrack, almost pretty with ominous overtones, but the creepy whispers and fizzing noises prevent it from ever becoming too friendly. Elsewhere, chugging beats dissolve into arrhythmic stutters and breakdowns, and “Through the Endless Streams of Satellite Euphoria” climbs out of uneasy ambience into a dubby bassline and freakout synth chittering. The piano of “Immortality” builds into an appropriately church-like feel, but its cavernous rhythm and distant chanting voices are thrown off by flitting, buzzing electronic sounds, perhaps hinting that God’s territory is being overtaken by human invention.
The band’s statements are difficult to take at face value, perhaps, when they describe “sound… employed as a tool for mapping of neglected areas of the subconscious” and offer the album as a “morbid collection of unprecedented galactic novelties and forgotten sound archaeologies.” But nobody ever said artists shouldn’t reach for the unlikely, and you certainly can’t find fault in taking steps toward a compelling interzone. The organization of audio presented in these songs doesn’t lack for imagination or scope. Its chief challenge, in fact, is precisely the opposite: there’s perhaps too much hither and thither, so only after repeated listens do the parts begin to cohere into a sensible whole. Even then, any given track never feels settled, and before you’ve made sense of a passage it’s long gone and there’s something new to consider.
As music for exploring the questions of where space colonization might lead, and the inevitable changes to the human race that would result, the songs on The Irresistible Art Of Space Colonization… may open eyes to unexpected vistas, but it’s best not to expect real answers. As if to accentuate the unanswerable, the album concludes with a riddle. The slowly bubbling beats of closer “Celestial Heliocentric Cultures” pull stretched synth tones along in a relatively sedate way until suddenly the song blows apart into the sounds of crazed, broken machinery, a malfunctioning space station computer sounding all of the alarms. The beats pound slowly as the chaos flies here and there, and the album ends with a moment of near-silence. Whether it’s the silence of safety or the silence of finality is open to interpretation.