I introduced readers of Somewherecold to Steve Giacomelli’s fantastic experimental work back in October of 2016. His work, Opus I-IV, has been a constant in my rotation of LP’s which I listen to ever since I came upon his music. An ambient artist, Giacomelli composes both in rich, droney soundscapes and in analog synth palates. His newest, Weather Calculator, is a venture once again in the space-age, futuresque sounds of a 60’s or 70’s sci-fi epic. Taking his listener on a futuristic flight into the stratosphere, Weather Calculator is eight tracks that soar with undulating and fulsome rhythms while playfully maneuvering among various melodies and synth tones to create a journey that taps into the listener’s imagination.
Giacomelli invites his listener to join him first in the “Ionosphere”, a reference to the layer of the atmosphere that allows for wireless transmissions. It is also the layer that defends the Earth from cosmic and solar radiation. A syncopated bass synth provides a sort of tempo for the track, with its static edges and otherworldly melody that plays against other cosmically tinged sounds. It fades out as the initial launch of the album is now over and the atmospheric journey began. “Nimbus Villainy” has a bit of ominous flavor to it, with a dancing bass synth that is punctuated and surrounded by a warbling drone, bright sci-fi sounds, and occasional melodic lines. It’s a beautifully complex piece that sounds deceptively simple on the surface. There’s also this moment at about 3 minutes in where this synth plays a subtle but beautiful melodic pattern ala The Album Leaf.
“Kundalini Timeshares” is a very different piece with energetic, animated sounds dancing about in a repeating pattern. Wind-like synths rise and fall into unearthly sounds, almost reaching heights that produce a feedback type noise. Rumbles and oscillations erupt and fall throughout the track. A synth eventually becomes prominent, playing a broken melody, whipping about the soundscape. “Buttons and Bows” has a cascading set of bright, beautiful analog noises and they flow into something more ambient and bass-like. This is a layered track that is mesmerizing. An experimental tour de force if I’ve heard one. Textures move from speaker to speaker while layers swell and are added to an ever-impressive set of full, hypnotic sonic flavors. Eventually, the dense layers strip back to reveal an evanescent melody that dances through the air. This, for me, is the heart of Weather Calculator, bright and beautifully composed.
“Calliope Nocturna (Escape Pod Sonata)”, perhaps a reference to the Greek Muse or the asteroid which is named after the same goddess, This has space journey written all over it, with a horn like sound moving in the speakers (not quite horn but it’s the closest descriptor I can find) and those ever present and recognizable space sounds to which all listeners will connect. A low, rumbling drone fills the speakers and the space sounds move about and hypnotize the listener. The piece is open and airy. “Weather calculator I: Out to Sea” is the first of a trilogy that makes up the back half of the album. This is one of two long-form pieces on the album it is a hypnotic piece that swirls about recalling the open and repetitive nature that a sea journey can be. It’s a beautiful piece demonstrating Giacomelli’s ability to use slight variations on a musical theme to his great advantage. “Out to Sea” slowly fades and gives way to the longest track on the album.
“Weather Calculator II: There’s a Place… I Can Show You” begins with a rather innocent sounding melody that is joined by an undulating synth line and fuzzy synth tones. The original melody is played slowly and various as it is awash in the much faster synths that join it. At about 4:45, a deep drone fills in the spaces and gives this wonderful warm texture to the piece. This is when more and more layers become added and there is a slow-moving swell that really brings a sense of wonder to the soundscapes. Eventually, the denseness begins to peel away one layer at a time. The arrival of our musical traveler seems to be to a place of an ethereal nature, spiritual and reflective. The finale to Weather Calculator is also the closing piece to the final trilogy “Weather Calculator III: Out to Sea (Again)”. This brief piece is a relaxing ending to the journey, perhaps meant to evoke the sea breezes as they pass by one’s body, sitting on the stern of a ship.
Weather Calculator is a deft piece of work, taking analog synths and shaping what they can do into beautiful soundscapes. Giacomelli continues to demonstrate his prowess in composition as well as expression. The album, from “Ionosphere” to “Out to Sea (Again)” feels like a journey from the upper atmosphere to the wonders of the sea. Giacomelli instills wonder in the listener with a sense of hypnotic marvel. Get a copy of Weather Calculator, put on the headphones, and sink into a journey of epic proportions.