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Emanuele Errante - Time Elapsing Handheld

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Artist: Emanuele Errante

Album: Time Elapsing Handheld

Label: Karaoke Kalk

Review date: May. 3, 2011

The first thing you notice about Time Elapsing Handheld is its elegance. Every guitar phrase, every chordal synth wash, every stray percussive effect and background granular smear — each has their place in a tasteful, finely balanced whole. After two previous full lengths, Emanuele Errante has obviously perfected his delicate art of arrangement, of moving his pastel electronic timbres around a hermetic sonic field and subtly mixing in more acoustic textures, most notably a softly strummed acoustic guitar and understated keyboard melodies. He even finds ways to make the background hum with shimmering harmonic activity and random-sounding digital detritus without overwhelming the more brittle elements of his compositions.

But this elegance is the problem. Virtually none of the seven pieces here evinces any sign of risk. All the edges have been polished off these sounds in a rush toward the middle, like it was made for earbuds or computer speakers with an outboard sub-woofer. High frequencies have no bite and the lows seem flaccid. Even the acoustic textures like the guitar, which should provide a jolt of more complex sonics, miss the mark. On pieces like “Inner,” Errante voices a few stray, fragmented chords in what must be an attempt to contrast with the syrupy synthetic strings, but they just come off as overly coy. Elsewhere, he comes close to some engaging contrasts, like in the pointillist rhythmic undertow he evokes on “Counterclockwise,” but then either never returns to them, or, as on “Later, Earlier,” simply smothers them with more of those saccharine synth stabs.

But it’s not that all music should be dangerous or be complex, it’s just that this sort of music — drifting, ambient soundscaping in the style of Eno — should feel open-ended, should suggest possibilities deeper than what it shows on the surface. Without that sense, the music is just polite, all surface and no depth. And as a listener you react accordingly: Time Elapsing Handheld is a pleasant enough way to spend three quarters of an hour, but once it’s over, it’s easy to forget.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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