Nosound was originally the project of Giancarlo Erra, I covered his work at the beginning of Nosound in 2005 and have loved what he has done since. The band is now fuller and made up of Giancarlo Erra (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Marco Berni (keyboards, vocals), Alessandro Luci (bass, upright bass, keyboards), Paolo Vigliarolo (acoustic & electric guitars), and Giulio Caneponi (drums, percussions, vocals). Scintilla is a bit of a departure from former Nosound material as it is more stripped down, sparser, and moves more in the direction that bands like The Album Leaf inhabit. As always, Nosound creates crisp, emotively deep compositions with a maturity that is backed by years of musical experience. On Scintilla, Nosound is joined by Vincent Cavanagh (Anathema) and Andrea Chimenti (acclaimed Italian singer) to provide lush and provocative pieces that break new ground for the band.
Scintilla opens with “Short Story”. Acoustic guitar plays a simple melody and Erra sings, almost speaks, a slow, inviting vocal over a drone and a sparse piano. This erupts with what sounds like kettle drums or a very large and deep tom syncopated as it pounds. While Nosound has progressed into something slightly different musically, “Short Story” is still cinematic and has that central story feel for which the band is known. “Last Lunch” begins with synths bleep about and stripped down, simple drums and bass. Strings join the mix as Erra croons. Eventually, the percussion becomes accents, a guitar plays a simple melody, and a light, airy drone fills the speaker. At this point, the strings are highlighted, humming out a melancholy tone. At about 5:20, the composition gets more complex, with an almost jazz-like percussion and dreamy synths. Mention must be made of Luci and Caneponi’s bass and percussion work. They are both brilliant in both the subtleness they provide as well as the ability to accent the mood of songs.
“Little Man” is a beautiful tale of a couple’s relationship and the sweet, complicated, and sad moments they experience. It has a slow trip-hop feel, with weeping strings and Caneponi’s complex, swinging percussion. The build is laden with organ and beautiful written bass lines. “In Celebration” begins with these beautiful tonal choices of sparse keys. Then a lightly picked guitar acts as a conversation partner, playing a counter-melody. The full band joins, with percussion and strings creating a cinematic feel. It’s a celebratory piece with soaring guitars and progressive percussion. “Sogno e Incendi” has a piano playing with drum and bass. Chimenti sings in Italian a beautiful ballad. Guitars fill in the spaces eventually as the drums erupt and the piano increases in volume. There are also classical guitar and decidedly Mediterranean elements in this piece.
“Emily” has a slowly galloping pace with picked guitar, bass, and sparse drums. Erra is back on vocals with pensive phrasing. He sings “Don’t leave me here alone” as violins play mournfully underneath. The horns provide a Sufjan Stevens feel and the strings a classical tone. “The Perfect Wife” is a more angst-filled composition that begins with lulling guitar and strings with a melancholy touch. The guitars are angrier, fuzzier, and growling, letting the listener know that the title is clearly sarcastic. This wife is far from perfect. In fact, she is destructive and the music reflects what Erra sings in his lyrics about this succubus. The toms pound under Erra’s voice as he recounts the story of a failed relationship and the woman who has clearly turned to anger and hate.
“Love is Forever” is melancholy and almost nihilistic in its absence of hope. Erra sings “From a void of presence/from a void of time/from a void of love/from a void of feelings/from a void of tears/from a void of hope.” The music is a simple piano and with choral synth voices playing deep in the mix. “Evil Smile” has a straightforward song structure that has a post-rock, Bark Psychosis flavor. It also fits with the themes of the album, having a broken relationship at the center of the lyrics. “I always knew I would let you go”, Erra sings. The attempt to move on from a toxic relationship is central here and her evil smile clearly haunts him. While the composition is straightforward, the elements within it reflect the mood like lamenting strings and Erra’s vocal cadence and melody. “Scintilla” is the finale to the disc and the titular song. Dreamy drones and acoustic guitar fill the speakers as slight feedback accompanies them. Piano and strings join in as this very slow and patient piece tells a musical story of loss and pain. The spark, or scintilla, is Erra’s realization of his own reality in the context of his love gone wrong. As the track progresses, piano and horns bring in a bright element that is accompanied by a marching snare. Perhaps our protagonist, or Erra himself, has found the relief from his pain so poignantly expressed throughout the album.
Nosound have constructed a beautifully written, emotively compelling ten tracks that make up a very coherent album. From start to finish, the band immerses the listener in their less than happy place with expertly crafted compositions. While a departure from previous albums, Scintilla is masterful and still has that core Nosound feel to it. Scintilla takes the listener on an intimate journey through heartbreak that is never cliché.