OIP (Oblivion: Intimate Portraits)
Influenced heavily by the emotive storytelling of Van Der Graaf Generator, Venus’s Delight is the one-man project of Roman composer Alessandro Gregori. On his latest record, OIP (Oblivion: Intimate Portraits), he successfully conjures a lot of classical airs within his progressive/post-rock foundation in an attempt to reveal “alluring darkness, conveying both poetry and passion.” It’s a precisely polished, sundry, and idiosyncratic sequence that packs more originality and intrigue than many contemporary works by full bands, demonstrating just how distinguishing music can be when they’re only one person behind the wheel.
The tasteful pianowork, strings, and purposefully muffled vocals that spearhead opener “Flower” pack an immediately arresting punch that—with the addition of heavy percussion and electric guitar—recall the commanding elegance of Giancarlo Erra’s Nosound and even John Wetton-era King Crimson. Although it’s a relatively simple work, it’s nevertheless quite fascinating and alluring. It also contrasts nicely the shimmering somberness of the subsequent “E for Empathy,” an atmospheric gem whose ethereal tones and echoed timbres (including forlorn vocal outcries) culminate in a lovely slice of warm melancholia.
“Amygdala” feels much more modern and electrifying in comparison, with a groovy rhythm, entrancing riffs, and hostile verses making for a magnetic initial passage. Eventually, delicate keyboard and guitar layers complement frenzied syncopation to enhance the enveloping sense of aggressive despair. (In particular, a Mike Oldfield-esque arpeggio halfway through adds a brief but lovely moment). Next, “White Morning” focuses once again on regale piano motifs and robust singing, with other qualities (including a subtle taste of symphonic metal screeching) providing additional flair. It’s certainly among the most welcoming and consistent tracks on OIP.
Halfway through, “Kindflow” proves to be an especially memorable piece melodically, with interesting and poignant changes throughout that yield highly sophisticated, beautiful, and endearing textual outbursts. In contrast, “Black Window” is sweetly understated and relatively accessible (like a softer Blackfield song); its easily one of the most serene selections here, too, with gentle pulsations and piano chords decorating Gregori’s unwavering yet pained attitude. There’s a more complex nature to “From Ash to Sand,” evoking classic Anathema and Porcupine Tree jams in the way that its tight acoustic guitar riffs and bouncy rhythmic section are interspersed between light odes.
The closing duo—“Far Away” and “OIP”—make for a powerful pair. The former builds brilliantly from its lone arpeggios to a cascade of cymbal crashes, affective six-string lines, and angelic vocals (think: Anekdoten) that envelops you in luscious heartache. As for the title track, it justifies its relative lengthiness (twelve-and-a-half minutes) by offering some truly captivating environments; from its chilling opening blend of many-sided woodwinds and electronic throbs to its mid-section collage of desperation (highlighted by interlocking voices, reverberated beats, and high-pitched bells, in addition to the aforementioned elements), it’s a gorgeously inventive and touching experience, as well as the strongest entry in the whole collection (which is really saying something).
OIP is a textbook example of how DIY artists often produce some of the most distinctive, creative, and impactful music around. Gregori reveals himself as an immensely fluid and clearsighted composer whose attention to detail, coherence, and feeling generates one profound aural journey after another. It’s damn near impossible not to get lost in these wholly moving and meticulously interwoven worlds because each quality and pattern is so fine-tuned and fascinating. Each piece on OIP washes over you like a gloriously eloquent portrait, and I can’t wait to hear what Gregori paints next