On his latest RareNoise release, the one-time Italian punk guitarist and current experimental musician-producer-sound designer Eraldo Bernocchi joins Indian slide guitar master Prakash Sontakke for a rare encounter on the sublimely beautiful Invisible Strings. A melding of East and West, Bernocchi plays sparse guitar lines behind the Hindustani lap steel virtuoso on this evocative collaboration between the two. From "The Last Emperor Walked Alone" to "Sublime Skies," "Bangalor Electric" and "The Unsaid," Bernocchi and Sontakke strike an uncommon accord on this meeting of the spirits.
"The first time I heard about Prakash was in a project with Eivind Aarset where he played guitar. His name popped out again from a journalist who suggested I should do something with him because we could really get along. He actually was right. Prakash is such a sensitive person, able to adapt to any style or sound environment. And he has an amazing way of mixing Hindustani classical music with new technologies as well lap steel guitar."
In shaping a sonic environment for Prakash to play in, Bernocchi was mindful of letting things flow in the studio as the music took shape. "It's difficult for me to start with a sound concept," he says, "as sound lives by itself and blooms according to what's surrounding it. I was intrigued by the idea of working with another guitar player, especially one coming from a different tradition who was confronting himself with a more western instrument. I have loved Indian and Asian music since I was a teenager and for me to work with someone so skilled, so amazingly dynamic has been a kind of dream fulfilled."
Bernocchi acknowledges that Brian Eno's 1983 ambient music project Apollo (which utilized lap steel guitar) was a seed for his own work on the Invisible Strings project. "I own Apollo on vinyl, CD and tape, "he says. "It is one of my favourite records of all time. It's very likely that in a silent way, when I had the chance to play with someone who eventually reminded me of those moments, my brain reacted to it with a big smile."
Add the fact that Prakash is Indian and Bernocchi professes a special love for that place and its music, and you have the makings of magical outing. Bernocchi, who co-founded RareNoise Records in 2008 with Giacomo Bruzzo, has recorded with the bands Obake, Metallic Taste of Blood and Owls and also collaborated with minimalist pianist-composer Harold Budd for the London-based label. For Invisible Strings, he saw his role as a guitarist from a couple of different points of view.
"The first approach was creating atmospheres around Prakash's guitar magic. I used a lot of pedals and I completely reshaped the sound of the guitar as we know it," he explains. "On the record there are a lot of sounds that are made with guitar but they sound like from other instruments. I've always been interested in using the guitar as a tool, as something that could create sounds out of space or nowhere. There are pads, drones, keys that are coming from my guitars. I mainly used baritone guitars, especially a custom- made aluminum one built for me by Nude Guitars from Italy. They're amazing instruments with such a sustain that sometimes you think there's compression applied but it's just the aluminum neck dialoguing with the wood body.The second phase was duetting with Prakash, creating something that could be a sort of dialogue. This was much more risky as he is such a skilled player and so sensitive that I was worried to spoil the magic of his melodies. But I think in the end it worked well and everything was natural."
Bernocchi explains the process of carving out the evocative soundscapes heard behind Sontakke throughout Invisible Strings. "Every track starts with a melody, a harmony, a loop of something I had in mind that I was sending to Prakash to record on. He was then sending me back his guitar parts or his ideas for melodies and harmonies, and from that point I was starting to build tracks. So every groove, beat, bass line or my guitar parts are always dialoguing with what he was sending me. Sometimes we reversed the process with me sending over themes, like on 'The Unsaid' for example. It's a time-consuming process, especially because I'm a studio maniac and I'm never satisfied. So ultimately it took one and a half years of sessions to complete this project.
"It is a very emotional album," Bernocchi continues, "as during the process of composing and recording it, we exchanged a lot of personal stories, impressions, memories. A lot of small stories surfaced during the making of Invisible Strings -- some happy, some melancholic, some really sad. Prakash is one of those persons with whom I could fully open my heart to emotions. I can't wait to play live with him."
Invisible Strings, Bernocchi's most genuinely heartfelt and strikingly evocative recording to date, will be released on RareNoise Records in November.
1. The Last Emperor Walked Alone
2. Will You Stay
3. From Star To Star
4. The Invisible Ferry
5. Sublime Skies
6. Bangalor Electric
7. Purple Yellow
8. Walking Backwards Again
9. The Unsaid