Materiali Sonori 1982 / Mental Experience 2020
From Lounge Lizard to Office Plankton: NYC scenester proposes minimalism as a method of evaluating little things in life.
Irony and experimentation has always been part of Steve Piccolo’s creative vocabulary, but while the ensemble he’d graduated from in 1981 seemed bent on a full-on sonic assault, the American artist’s solo debut assuaged this jazzy tendency by offering a pared-down aural perspective – the perspective of a regular white collar who harbors high hopes. Channeling existential dread through one-note patterns that mutate slowly enough to get burrowed into the listener’s lobes, he may evade memorable melodies for the most part, yet the pieces “Domestic Exile” is comprised of can’t be less devoid of substance. It’s a soundtrack to one’s detachment which will be easy to embrace and hard to shake off.
With the ivory-colored assistance from Evan Lurie, his colleague in THE LOUNGE LIZARDS, and G. Lindahl, Piccolo paints pale panoramas, the occasional crunch of his guitar and bass puncturing deadpan vocals to create momentum and make numbers such as “Young And Ambitious” – where clockwork ticks and acoustic strum dictate the mood – ooze stifling urgency. There’s acceptance of everyday pressures in the simultaneously twangy and languid likes of “The Bell” and “Modern Man” with its exquisite solo, but if the deranged baroque of “Fast Life” is cinematic, and lyricism and satire fill “I Don’t Want To Join A Cult” in equal measure, whether humor or smile belong in the sluggish “Businessman’s Lament” would be a wild guess.
Social critique doesn’t leave the picture, though, the piano-stricken “Superior Genes” exploring a bilious aspect of the matter and “Stray Man” piling up empathy. That’s why “Apologia” has hymnal solemnity deliver a dampened triumph for a finale only after silence emerges and vanishes into nowhere: it’s a chamber sort of guilt, a cubicle drama, and Steve Piccolo nailed it to a sound canvas in most vivid, albeit bleak, detail.