Follow Melanie De Biasio on a unique and raw sonic journey as she retraces her grandparent's footsteps on new album 'Il Viaggio'
After Melanie De Biasio’s four magnificent works (A Stomach Is Burning, No Deal, Gilles Peterson Presents: Melanie De Biasio – No Deal Remixed, Blackened Cities and Lilies), her new album Il Viaggio (“the journey” in Italian) is available to the world.
Il Viaggio was born from an awakened emotional memory. It offers a quest for musical, physical, and spiritual renewal. With a combination of concrete and ambient, this album drifts between the natural sounds of daily life and a dreamlike, imagined world.
When the multidisciplinary arts festival Europalia invited Melanie De Biasio to participate in its Trains & Tracks-themed festival in 2021, the Belgian musician was inspired to take to the road and return to her roots.
Melanie decided to retrace the route of her father’s parents when immigrating from Italy to Belgium. The focus track ‘San Liberatore’ is named after the Italian church where their journey started.
The echo of that church was so mesmerising and unique that I recorded almost all my flutes and chants in there
Melanie De Biasio
Alone with only lightweight recording equipment and an old camera, Melanie De Biasio settled for a month in the small mountain village of Lettomanoppello in Abruzzo, Italy. This became the starting point of Il Viaggio.
During her stay Melanie collected testimonies, in particular ones from Ciccopeppe, a man who was exiled to Belgium before returning to his roots in Italy. His stories became the foundation for ‘Lay Your Ear To The Rail’.
In Ciccopeppe’s voice, I perceived an echo of the whole of humanity
Melanie De Biasio
Walking through the area, Melanie recorded “sonic textures”, such as the sound of wind and water from springs and streams, birdsong, barking and ringing of church bells. These textures allowed for acoustics and musicality to merge, capturing natural sounds and untamed vibrations free from language, stories and myths, to fully welcome an uninterpreted world.
From Lettomanoppello, Melanie journeyed in the Dolomites where her family originated and where she spent summers as a child. She found her grandmother’s house and recorded ‘Nonnarina’, a tender song of remembrance composed in her honour and sung in her native, Italian tongue.
Accompanied by a simple guitar and also sung in Italian, ‘Mi Ricordo Di Te’ was inspired by the idea of moulting, shedding an old skin for a new one.
On ‘Lay Your Ear To The Rail’, Melanie patiently leads the listener to return to a sense of wonder through its haunting sound, echoing elements of exile and wandering.
Melanie wanted to embark on her journey with the eyes of a child. This desire is beautifully reflected on her tracks ‘Il Vento’, ‘Now Is Narrow’ and ‘San Liberatore’.
A child does not think, she dreams
Melanie De Biasio
Much like a child’s process of discovery, her journey was at its heart not only introspective but also collaborative. The English lyrics on the album are the result of an ongoing collaboration with Gil Helmick, a poet and activist living in Maine, US. Together, using Gil’s poetry as a starting point for writing, they managed to create an improvised flow of words, developing a synergy of images and meaning.
The evocative lyrics of ‘We Never Kneel’ to ‘Pray’ and its variation ‘The Chaos Azure’ speak to a luminous rebellion, acceptance and ultimately, love.
Upon her return to Belgium, Melanie worked closely with multi-instrumentalist Pascal Paulus, who also contributed to her previous album releases. Using Melanie’s raw recordings from Italy, they created the musical foundation for each piece on this album.
Like delicate brush strokes of a Sfumato painting, the ethereal sound of ‘I’m Looking For’ is soft and blurred, as if reflecting the unfolding journey of a dream. In ‘Chiesa’, Melanie’s flute basks in the natural echo of a church building, creating a sense of spatial wholeness, while the beat imitates the sound of footsteps.
Continuing her journey in the Catskill Mountains north of New York, Melanie met with musician and producer David Baron and cellist Rubin Kodheli. They both contributed to the collective improvisations accompanying ‘We Never Kneel to Pray’ and ‘The Chaos Azure’.
Finally, returning to Charleroi, Belgium, the eponymous ‘Alba’ is recorded with Pascal Paulus – bringing the work to a full circle, arriving at a still and restful resolution.
In celebrating the dawn, Melanie De Biasio leaves the train tracks, departs from the collective and family narrative and asserts her presence in the world.
On Il Viaggio, we get to re-discover her original chants, her unique phrasing, her effortless sensuality and above all, her ability to leave behind the frenzy and noise – creating a world of abundant time and space. She offers a moment of being bathed in fulfilling quietness, and invites us to join her.
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