Air Lows is Silvia Kastel’s debut solo album. I hadn’t heard much of this Italian artist and assumed she’s fresh on the scene, but she’s been playing live and releasing records and tapes since she was a teenager in the late 2000s. Abstract, experimental, jazzy, rocky—weird and interesting music. She’s collaborated with Smegma, Gary Smith, Aki Onda, and Ninni Morgia as Control Unit, amongst others. And straight off in Air Lows, I felt at the hands of an experienced and imaginative musician. There was no itch to skip forward. She caught me and I let the LP run.
The opener "Target" is after-hours electronica. The kicks of the peak party hours are still punching but with lessening momentum. Silvia’s looped processed voice invokes us to “lay back" and engage the mind’s eye rather than the limbs. The flavor of psychedelia here is cool open space, and the rhythm is four-four, but deconstructed. She’s moved into the techno aesthetic and calmly made an incision with a scalpel and removed the organs and bones that don’t serve her function.
Throughout the music is meditative, patient, with a quality of aloneness. Good for a night in with yourself or one other. (It’s telling that Silvia put out a 12” on a series called Bedroom Solitary in 2015.) And the style is refreshingly natural. She’s comfortable in this impressionistic digital terrain and happily sets off exploring on her own. Nothing feels forced or amplified for impact. It’s a humble and understated sound and one that endears me to her as a human. The tracks and the overall narrative are succinct, though I wished the trip was longer. When the album finished I was compelled to play it through again.
But the arrangements are wonderfully timed. The tracks start and are immediately interesting, and progress surprisingly but coherently. And they end just right, not needing more, nor having exhausted their material. They aren’t club-friendly, though I can picture hearing them in sets between avant-garde live acts or in the third room of a party. Lucretia Dalt came to mind.
The few lines of lyrics in the album are unsophisticated in their choice of words and imagery, but admittedly it is clear they serve more an instrumental and phonetic purpose than a semantic one. Still, the lyrics in "Spiderwebs" and "Concrete Void" could better match the poetic qualities of the music.
Having only listened to clips of Silvia’s other work I got a warm welcome into this LP and stayed as a happy guest. But when I left the pleasure faded quickly, and there wasn’t much to remember or hold on to, try as I did. Certainly no melody to hum or sing in the shower or cycling. Despite its high quality the experience was ephemeral and limited to the actual listening of the music, unlike some music which you can take with you anywhere. I would like to be able to take the Air Lows feeling with me. What keeps it from being memorable?
But overall I have the pleasure of discovering Silvia Kastel, a talented and surprising and prolific artist, at a point of confidence in her career. I’ll certainly follow Silvia on social media and play her releases as they come.
03. Air Glow
04. Air Mob
05. Heart 2 Tape
07. Concrete Void
08. The Closer The Stranger
Air Lows will land on November 10 via Blackest Ever Black.