Agitated Atmosphere: Belfi/Grubbs/Pilia – Onrushing Cloud

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Andrea Belfi, Stefano Pilia, and David Grubbs.

Composition fell in love with stylized pairings decades ago. Folk troubadours plied their craft across the dusty plain, teaming up to earn a few bucks for the next part of their journey. Jazz musicians turned combos into science, meshing together disparate ideas into superior works of art. The presentation of unique personalities working in harmony has long yielded fascinating results, so leave it to minimalist hero David Grubbs to reach into the emerging talent of Italy and come away with Onrushing Cloud.

Joined by electro-percussionist Andrea Belfi and guitarist Stefano Pilia, Grubbs carves out an interesting niche between his minimalist attitudes and his recent returns to rich, pop-laden melodies. Released via Grubbs’ own Blue Chopsticks label (a sub-label of Drag City), Onrushing Cloud neatly combines the many faces of Grubbs and serves as a worthy introduction for those unacquainted with the talents of Pilia (who has released three fantastic 7-inch albums known as Last Days in the past two years) and Belfi. Much of Side A is a work of high art, combining errant guitar notes with ambient percussion; the sound of musicians carefully walking across a wooden floor, deep in musical thought as they calculate which note to play and when to pluck it. It’s a thinker, choosing to rely on the meditative qualities of sound rather than intellectual. Side B showcases what this trio is fully capable of, with Grubbs and Pilia’s guitar work working in tandem like thunder and lightning, as Belfi’s skills as a percussionist build the boundaries in which Pilia and Grubbs must conform. Unlike the A side’s challenge to the listener for patience, the B side plays as a challenge to the musicians, eventually swallowing its tail like a confused snake and beginning the process anew. Onrushing Cloud’s cyclical nature proves its strongest point, allowing for continued listens — not only for scholarly dissection, but for personal enjoyment. Grubbs, Pilia, and Belfi stimulate the mind as well as entertain it and that’s all one can ask.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He also pens Deserted for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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