Bruno Sanfilippo

Bruno Sanfilippo's delicate touch has produced some of the most poetic, sophisticated old-school ambient of the 2000's and beyond. He shows an exceptional talent with reverb effects; it would be easy to place his delicate pieces against a large reverberant backdrop and lose all definition. Yet Sanfilippo does the opposite, preserving the exquisite detail of his sound paintings.

artist:
Bruno Sanfilippo

country of origin:
Argentina/Spain

style(s):
Cinematic, neoclassical, ambient, solo piano, environmental, impressionist, sacred choral

decades active:
90's - 10's

essential releases:

  • Visualia (2003, Neuronium Records)
  • Ad Libitum (2004, AD21 Music)
  • InTRO (2006, AD21 Music)
  • Piano Textures (2007, AD21 Music)
  • Piano Textures 2 (2009, AD21 Music)
  • Auralspace (2009, AD21 Music)
  • Subliminal Pulse (2011, Spotted Peccary)
  • Piano Textures 3 (2012, AD21 Music)

Reviewed by Mike G

Born in Argentina and based in Spain, Bruno Sanfilippo's delicate touch has produced some of the most poetic, sophisticated old-school ambient of the 2000's and beyond. Surprisingly the first phase of his recording career offers few hints at the depths he would reveal later on. The quasi-orchestral new age pop and soundtrack music of his early albums from the 90's are an undistinguished, pretty and occasionally bombastic.  After those, however, Sanfilippo's solo albums suddenly become much more interesting.

Visualia (2003) finds him revelling in the classical minimalist ideas of repetition and slow development. Each track is an interpretation of fractal art pictures by the American artist Janet Parke. The haunting, impresionalist ambient pieces are still tonal, even melodic - as is his previous work - but they mostly leave behind traditional musical structures and make do with simpler, much sparser elements including ghostly vocal phrasings and deep drones. Visuala is the sound of an artist who has found his voice, and given the composer's track record up this point it's a strikingly mature piece of work.

Ad Libitum (2004) and InTRO (2006) are ravishing and wide-ranging ambient and downtempo excursions. Piano, violin/cello, vocal textures and snaking, shimmering synths all take turns at defining the compositions. The composer shows an exceptional talent with reverb effects; it would be easy to place such delicate pieces against a large reverberant backdrop and lose all definition. Yet Sanfilippo does the opposite, preserving the exquisite detail of his sound paintings.

The three volumes of Piano Textures (2007, 2009, 2012) are fine, often deeply haunting ambient works, suggesting Harold Budd and Tim Story at their peak and yet with enough originality to avoid any obvious imitation. It's not all solo piano; on some tracks he ads organ, cello or violins, conjuring a kind of trippy neoclassical chamber music with a cosmic, melancholy undertow. Again, Sanfilippo's use of reverb and electronic washes on this albums is remarkable, creating an enveloping sound without losing the intimate details.

On the disarming Auralspace (2009) slowly morphing synthesised drones take centre stage, more so than on any of his other solo releases. Each track is different from the last, suggesting a lot of work by the composer has gone into shaping is own sounds and avoiding synth presets altogether. Lots of little details orbit around and through the mix - a location sound here, a muted tribal pulse there. It's superior drone ambient and a striking listen for fans of the style.

From a refinement point of view, however, Subliminal Pulse (2011) is probably his masterpiece. Bearing a resemblance to Ad Libitum and inTRO, there are synths, violin, wordless choirs, ghostly strings and glacial chords. It's melodic without being obvious; droning yet with plenty of structure; minimal without being tuneless. The album reaches a climax of sorts with "Pulsem Sacrem", a ravishing choral chant. Again, there's surprising variety but as an album it's entirely cohesive. It's a stunning work - and a fine place to start for newcomers to Bruno Sanflippo's world.

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