Fera, “Stupidmutaforma”
By J. Edward Keyes · February 10, 2020 Merch for this release:
2 x Vinyl LP, Cassette

Italian electronic composer Andrea De Franco—who records as Fera—has been working on his debut LP Stupidamutaforma for over a decade, and the time spent is audible in each slow, deliberate moment. The album’s title is a bit of self-deprecation: De Franco considers his work to be “dumbed-down” versions of electronic music, the ruthless simplicity of which allows them to change shape repeatedly, becoming so diffuse that they could be considered to fall under any number of electronic subgenres (that’s the “mutaforma” part of the title). In truth, the music here feels not stupid, but incredibly thoughtful. Opening track “Stupida” sketches a blueprint for the album that follows: De Franco latches on to a single melodic phrase and sets it spinning (in “Stupida,” it’s a five-note melody line buzzed out on an analog synth); then, he surrounds it with soft textural elements: an atmospheric hum; a low, thrumming bass tone; a high-ghostly whoosh that sounds like a jet engine. The convergence of all of these makes the songs on Stupidamutaforma feel hypnotizing—let the album play for its full 60-minute runtime while you’re out taking a walk, and by the time it ends you may find yourself a whole zip code over, with no idea how you got there.

The longer De Franco lets these songs play out, the more effective they are. “Yung Leaf” stretches out for eight-and-a-half minutes, but it never feels dull or redundant. It operates according to the standard Stupidmuta rules—on this one, the repeated element is the bass-heavy techno rhythm. But the expanded runtime gives De Franco enough time to layer in more and more elements: a synth line that begins as a wisp becomes more and more prominent as the song goes on; what sounds like someone panting for breath way in the background gets sharper and more urgent; at the halfway mark, a synth melody suddenly zips into view like a U.F.O. darting across an open cornfield at night. The seven-plus minute “Cura” accomplishes the same dazzling feat. Cue blinking synth figure, enter buzzy countermelody, bake in crackling effects, and let the whole thing simmer. Stupidamutaforma establishes De Franco as a composer who uses space and time to create a set of rich, immersive works. Hopefully, it won’t take a decade for him to come up with more.

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