Album Review: hackedepicciotto – Keepsakes (MUTE)

by | Mar 15, 2024 | Album Reviews, Blog

In Keepsakes(MUTE, 2023), hackedepicciotto—the audacious fusion of Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke and multidisciplinary artist Danielle de Picciotto—unveils a deeply etched milestone in their two-decade-long synergy. This album unfolds as their most intimate exploration, a sanctum of sound built upon the bedrock of friendship and the profound realizations birthed from solitude and reflection during the pandemic’s grip. On Tuesday, March 19, hackedpicciotto will perform live in Bucharest at Control Club.

Embarking on a distinct departure from their earlier thematic narratives, like 2021’s biblical The Silver ThresholdKeepsakes weaves each composition into a heartfelt ode to individual friends, manifesting as a series of audial dedications that become embodiments of connection. This thematic pivot towards the personal turns the album into a living, breathing mosaic of relationships that have shaped, challenged, and enriched the duo’s journey.

Keepsakes is characterized by an enigmatic and deeply gothic ambiance, seamlessly blended with avant-garde and industrial components, swathed in a cocoon of ambient serenity. The duo’s commitment to self-reliance is unmistakably evident, as they undertake every instrumental and vocal segment themselves as well as assuming full responsibility for the album’s production.

The duo’s experimental verve shines through in this eclectic instrumentation, merging the tactile warmth of analog with the precision of digital landscapes. From the mournful resonance of tubular bells to the celestial embrace of the celesta—an instrument once caressed by Morricone himself—Keepsakes traverses a spectrum of timbres and textures. 

At its core, Keepsakes is characterized by its fluidity. The opening track, Troubadour, introduces us to the album’s intricate sound world with harmonized vocals and a layered arrangement that builds complexity with each verse. In contrast, Aichach presents an instrumental journey driven by electronic grooves and enriched by the haunting timbres of strings and hurdy-gurdy. Anthem further exemplifies the album’s thematic coherence, with de Picciotto’s spoken word vocals weaving through an amalgamation of bass, autoharp, bells, and electronics, punctuated by sporadic brass blasts. 

Tracks like Lovestuff and Mastodon demonstrate Keepsakes’ ability to evoke unease, challenging listeners with discordant harmonies and high-frequency feedback. Conversely, Schwarze Milch offers a jazz-inflected tonality that nods to the duo’s historical associations, blending industrial heft with liturgical solemnity. Notably, La Femme Sauvage stands out for its stark pre-modernity, juxtaposing de Picciotto’s unvarying French with Hacke’s English narrative, all atop an evocative soundscape reminiscent of a sand-swept expanse. 

The album climaxes with Song of Gratitude and The Blackest Crow. These compositions avoid ending things on a note of despair. Instead, they offer a complex layering of emotions, mirroring the multifaceted nature of keepsakes themselves.

Recorded in the historic Auditorium Novecento in Naples, Keepsakes benefits from the unique acoustics and atmosphere of one of Europe’s oldest recording spaces. The inclusion of the mentioned tubular bells and a grand piano adds to the album’s rich palette, underscoring the duo’s knack for blending symphonic drone with elements of their diverse musical influences, from the legacy of Caruso to the cinematic scores of Morricone.

For all its homage to personal connections, Keepsakes may, at times, feel inaccessible to those unfamiliar with the specificity of its inspirations. Yet, the sheer passion and craftsmanship behind it ensures that its emotional resonance is palpable, even to the uninitiated. Rather than detracting, the sparseness and variance in vocals and lyrics enhance the album’s intimate focus, inviting listeners into a personal journey that, while anchored in the specific, speaks to universal themes of memory, loss, and gratitude.

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