Do you ever wonder how many pieces of yourself you’ve left behind over the years? I’m not talking about the pair of leather gloves you accidentally left on the bench in the subway station last winter or the old polaroid camera with a half-used film cartridge you forgot in a shoebox in the closet of your ex-lover’s apartment. Such items may have a poetic quality to them, but they are not the kind of pieces I’m talking about. No, these particular pieces are tinier than dead skin particles. They hide behind grains of static, sleep in the cracks between weathered wooden floorboards. And they hum.
Carlo Giustini knows this, and he proves it with a C1 Library of Congress cassette player, a contact mic, an Akai GXC704D cassette deck, a micro-cassette dictaphone, and a Philips N4307 reel-to-reel recorder.
“I like to hear what old buildings have to say,” Guistini says, “I truly believe that houses have a soul which is created by the memory of those who have lived there before. Placing microphones and tape recorders in different rooms and mixing the recordings back together in one track is a way of decoding the secret language of memory.”
Based out of Treviso, Italy, Giustini is in no way short on memory-saturated locations to scout for his field recordings—being that the city’s origins date back to 89 BCE. His latest two albums, Sant’Angelo (released digitally and on cassette via Purlieu Recordings), and Eden (releasing digitally and on cassette 7/30/18 via Bad Cake Records) are massive, sweeping testaments to the richness of the region, and his patient willingness to capture it with his lo-fi devices.
“I came to Treviso three years ago after some time living in London,” Giustini says, “London is massive and high speed, Treviso is tiny and serene. I believe that this radical change in my lifestyle has affected my music and recordings. I really needed some time off from the rush of the city. I was looking for a place to invest in serenty and quietness. My recordings try to capture this.”
Yes, they try and succeed in ways you might not expect. As each “non-song” comes to pass, you begin to hear exactly what Guistini wants you to hear: the soft, sacred voices of each room in each old house speaking to one another behind the crackle and hiss of the cassette tape. Their collective hums form mysterious chords that resonate alongside typical everyday sounds, such as a breeze gently blowing through an open window or water dripping from a leak in the ceiling, subsequently forming constantly evolving compositions that defy the ambient/drone genre. Considering the ever-expanding ocean of subpar drone albums out there, this is an incredible achievment.
This type of approach to music is not a new endeavor for Giustini. The origins of his process stretch back to his childhood in the 1990s, when he was fond of recording samples from the radio onto cassettes and playing them back at different speeds or piecing together sound collage mixtapes for his family. Not a lot has changed since, really—except for the fact, of course, that these days Guistini’s masterful sound collages are reaching a lot more ears than just those of his family members. His latest tape Sant’ Angelo is sold out only a few months after its release. Largely, Giustini thanks Bandcamp and the online DIY cassette community at large for his humble success.
“Bandcamp is the scene!” Giustini says, “I mean, there’s no better way to discover, share, comment, buy…Bandcamp gives us a space to feel appreciated, a place to feel less alone in this mainstream world! Indie record/cassette labels in 2018? Yes sir! In the past year, I’ve gotten in contact with so many talented artists who share the same passion for DIY home recording and unconventional recording techniques. It’s great! It’s like a new ‘punk’ era…just a bit more quiet and soothing.”
Currently, Giustini is finishing up an original soundtrack for a film entitled Parole In-Superabili—which is a documentary that features numerous candid interviews with everyday Italian citizens about disability. The film was produced by the pro-Autism organization Fondazione Oltre il Labririnto, which happens to be where Giustini holds down a day job.
“Disability is an important part of my life, as I have a brother with Autism,” Giustini says, “For the film, we placed a camera and a stool inside a room in the Bailo Museum of Treviso and invited people to sit down and answer a simple question: ‘What does disability mean to you?’ We collected more than 150 interviews and made a movie out of it. The soundtrack is something different than my usual weirdness. I used orchestral samples, a Juno, and an old Yamaha toy keyboard.”
As for whatever comes next for Giustini, that much is unclear. For now, he’s staying silent on the subject. That being said, if there is anything to take away from Carlo’s approach to music, it’s that silence is sure as hell worth listening to once in a while.