RADICAL LOSS OF TOUCH WITH REALITY IN GIBSON SG TERMS – original article on GHOST FM
Goodness gracious! Somebody drag us out of this John Carpenter chamber of addictive longings! Tonight marks yet another addition to our Dutch-auctioned collection of nostalgia bites. As the dusk settles, let us temporarily lose consciousness to the darkwave ecstasy ofCONFRONTATIONAL’s opening song from his latest EP called Done With You. The other three tunes on this jet-black extended play all feature vocals. As a matter of fact, the title track comes with adangerously glitchy Lynch-ian nightmare of a music video that is for us to investigate more and for you to decipher. But the disk commences with “Wanderer Of Darkness” where, in our perverted interpretation, Norwegian helicopter in Carpenter’s The Thingchases an Alaskan Malamute, except the chase music is then echoed in a church altar with Rolands instead of pipe organs. A distant drum enters the playground and surfaces slowly as if our masked superhero awaits his destined nemesis in Sega Mega Drive’s Revenge of the Joker. Let the mortal fight begin!
The apt dose of cyberpunk adrenaline rush you are (hopefully) going to stream below is the project of Massimo Usai from Sardinia, Italy who has been recording music since 1999. Who could tell, right? The man, among other retro things, gets his kicks from George A. Romero and Angelo Badalamenti (did we mention Ennio Morricone? ‘cause we did not really feel the need to judging by that place of origin). In a recent interview with Noisy, he also reveals his favorite game soundtracks to be Akira Yamaoka’s score for Silent Hill and Milky Eiko Kaneda’s for Splatterhouse II. Our Mr. M has apparently been contaminated inside the right container truck of useful darksynth distractions.
(Photo Source: Still frame from CONFRONTATIONAL’s “Done With You” music video shot on location in Cagliari, Sardinia)
DONE WITH YOU EP review on SENTIREASCOLTARE.com (by STEFANO SOLVENTI)
Finita l’avventura dei Recs Of The Flesh – chi ne ha seguito le vicende su queste pagine sa quanto sia stata un’avventura intrigante – e in attesa di riesumare – chissà quando – i Dahlia Indaco, è tempo di progetto solista per Massimo Usai. Confrontational è il suo modo di entrare a piedi uniti sul groviglio di ossessioni gotiche, electro e industrial. Dell’EP di esordio Done With You non stupisce la convinzione né la padronanza dei mezzi, semmai la disinvoltura che consente a Usai di ammiccare synth-wave in mezzo alla caligine dark, spingendosi a furia di rasoiate elettriche e cupezze techno fin quasi al limite del radiofonico.
Quattro i pezzi, la strumentale Wanderer Of Darkness che spedisce gli Stranglers a mordere le caviglie di John Carpenter e Moroder, una title track che impasta Killing Joke, Joy Division eOMD (ma il loop sintetico tradisce scorie U2 altezza Zooropa), poi una Giving Ground tutta ipnosi e rarefazione (gli androidi 80s che sognano pecore elettriche rock) e quella Under The Crimson Sky che chiude tra correnti ascensionali di synth cosmici e brume industrial/noise. Per l’album di debutto pare sia solo questione di tempo: restiamo sintonizzati.
CONFRONTATIONAL IS “DONE WITH YOU” IN CREEPY NEW DARKWAVE VIDEO – feature interview & video premiere on NOISEY.com (by JOSEPH YANICK)
The age of the music video is—in many ways—dead. Gone are the days that people sat in front of their TV, watching clip after clip, as evident in the dismantling of nearly all stations dedicated to their exhibition. The Internet has changed the game. But that does not mean the music video has disappeared.
No longer shackled by commercial concerns, music video can serve new functions, present new ideas. The perfect example of this is this video by the Italian solo project Confrontational. Bleak and dark, the video lacks any concerns with commercialism and backed with the Confrontational’s dark-synth sound, it is hypnotic.
We chatted with Italian musician Confrontational about his new video, very old-school approach to songwriting, and more.
Noisey: What projects were you involved in before you began Confrontational?
Confrontational: I founded my first band, DAHLIA INDACO, with Elisabetta Patrito in 1999. I had just recently started out on guitar. It was some sort of an industrial/darkwave crossover influenced by a lot of different things: Prong, Cocteau Twins, Sadus, Akira Yamaoka, Ministry. I was on guitars and programming, she played bass, and we both shared vocal duties. It was trippy stuff to say the least, and it was incredible to have Darren Travis (of Sadus) featured on our full length, Chronicles of Nowhere. We stopped playing together shortly after that release, in 2009, never officially quitting but just staying away from the whole thing.
I then founded another band in 2004, Recs of Flesh, which started as a solo project out of some bedroom demos heavily influenced by Sonic Youth, William S. Burroughs, Queens of the Stone Age, Placebo, Killing Joke; noise-rock with a dark twist. After, I had a very short-lived ambient project, White Klaudia, going on around 2006. I recorded, mixed & mastered a full EP all on my own titled Contrast in around 23 days, just to see if I could make it happen. And during off time in 2012, I also contributed vocals, guitars, and production to Old Sparky’s latest album, Sneaky Pop. I’ve known Fabio Desogus for a long while and he has a very unique signature electro sound that I really admire. I am quite proud of that collaboration.
I am always kind of impressed by solo projects, especially ones that work in styles that are prone to be heavily layered. What are the pros and cons of working alone for you?
I’ve always enjoyed working on my own and I wrote most of the stuff for Recs and Dahlia that way. When you’re alone, there are no boundaries other than your imagination—you get to chase the vision you’re after from start to finish. It can make for a very rewarding feeling, especially when you reach the end results you had in mind. On the downside, of course, it is a lot of hard work to get where you want to, and it can get very, very lonely in the studio. You really are on your own. If you get to collaborate with the right people, people who understand where you’re going, a special kind of magic can happen and I must admit I sometimes miss that feeling. I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of friends keeping me some company while tracking the new EP, and I see more collaborations happening in the near future.
The EP opens with “Wanderer of Darkness,” which is an amazing track that is very reminiscent of the soundtrack work of someone like John Carpenter or Tangerine Dream. So much so that I was actually surprised to hear vocals in the second track. Did you ever consider doing the project instrumental?
Well, I’m very humbled by the John Carpenter comparison; he really is one of a kind. He’s always been a huge inspiration for me, together with George A. Romero. After seeing Dawn of the Deadwhen I was 14 years old, I wanted to make a movie of my own and so I started to look into what I could do with no money, quickly realizing that a soundtrack was a good starting point. To find out that a person like John Carpenter existed—a man who both shot and scored his own movies—really blew my mind.
I first approached music making as some sort of a composer of soundtracks to movies that did not exist outside of my head, then the process of putting sounds together made me understand I could use songs to tell the stories I wanted to tell, instead of filming them. In more than one way, Confrontational is a return to those early days of experiments and total freedom.
I’ve got several more tracks ready for future releases that are instrumental, and I think you can make it work if you carefully balance the two aspects. I think having instrumentals does not exclude having songs with vocals, in fact I think it can enhance the listening experience. I’m open to anything; I am always after tracks that stand out on their own but can also be appreciated in the context of a collection. Ultimately, it’s the atmosphere that sets the mood.
Going off that, you claim that the EP is based on a true story, which also helps to gives it that cinematic feel. Is this a concept album?
Somehow all the albums I love listening to, as well as the ones I’ve worked on, are held together by a certain distinct mood that permeates the whole thing and is audible throughout the tracks. Be itFloodland by The Sisters of Mercy, Sister by Sonic Youth, Rude Awakening by Prong, The Messenger by Johnny Marr, or Whip It On by The Raveonettes, I think you can trace a common thread through all the songs, which makes the difference between a random collection of tunes and these fine efforts. That’s the way the stories behind those songs are told. And that’s an aspect I always consider when putting together an album. I am not sure you could call it a concept, but it’s most definitely a true story.
And you can see remnants of that visuals-told-through music aesthetic in the video. In a way the video lacks a explicit narrative but the music gives it that story. For you, what are you trying to say with the video? Further, do you think that are able to say more with the added visual element?
I wanted to do exactly that, let the song tell the story and use those images to create a visual point of reference for the listener (and viewer). I aimed to capture the atmosphere that the song is immersed in by simply displaying what the song is about. I think the message comes across clearly: one of solitude, decay, abandonment and slight bewilderment. It’s a dream within reality. And like in a dream, it’s all very still, the only perceived movements belong to the only one character in sight. It sets the right mood. A video can be a brilliant support for a song and set it to life, but can also work against it. I took a minimalist approach, and I think the way it came together works like an extra layer in the representation of the track.
There is definitely a genuine vintage feel to not only the artwork but also the music, what kind of gear do you use to capture this sound?
I try to keep it all very simple. All guitars were tracked with my two Gibson SG’s — one from 1994, the other from 2002. I use Zoom, Boss, and AMT pedals for all the guitar sounds you can hear on the EP. All vocals are tracked with an Audix OM2. My synthesizers are an old Roland from the nineties mostly used for organs and pads, the Novation X-station, and Xio-synth for more modern sounding leads, basses and arpeggiators, and the Akai Miniak also for sweeping pads, arps, and some bass. I also don’t disdain using some VST’s [Virtual Synthesizer Plug-ins]. I also play an old J-bass model from Squier and my drumset is a hybrid acoustic / electro kit that I customized on my own. I use it with a Roland TD3 module that provides most drums sounds when I’m in rehearsal mode and MIDI connectivity to my digital audio workstation when I record.
Where do you see the project evolving into? Is live performance a possibility?
Live performance is not only a possibility, but somewhat of a priority to me. I’ve reached out to some really amazing players around Europe who are going to help me perform around, and we recently played our debut show in Milan on February 21st. This first show featured Gabriela Kapel from the Netherlands on synth, Dimitri Obolensky from France on bass, and Josh Cameron from the UK on drums. We’re lining up more gigs as of now, we got three upcoming shows in Czech Republic at the end of April, and I have enough material for two more releases already—the first tentatively planned for June 2015. I’ve also got some extra tracks from the Done With You sessions that might end up in a physical release quite soon. We’ll see what happens with that.
When we spoke prior to this interview you discussed your desire to break into composing work. Are there any current scores that you are fond of, or are you more attracted to the classics?
Oh, I love a lot of stuff! Some of the most recent works that really impressed me are the Hanz Zimmer soundtracks for the Christopher Nolan movies. I just recently saw Interstellar and I thought it was simply crazy—what a great duo. The Signal had a brilliantly haunting score from Nima Fakhrara that really worked well with the movie. World’s Greatest Dad had a perfectly fitting soundtrack, and I simply loved how the featured songs made for a full immersion into the plot.
Another killer duo I totally admire is Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch—particularly Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, and the unbelievable Mulholland Drive. What a work of art. And of course, it goes without saying that all of John Carpenter’s work is like the ultimate encyclopedia of scoring for me. I am very much in love with The Prince of Darkness, In the Mouth of Madness, Escape from New York, and The Thing, an Ennio Morricone masterpiece that is a direct result of his collaboration with Mr. Carpenter.
As for videogames, I have to cite two soundtracks that have been really important in my upbringing: the noisy Silent Hill score from 1999 by Akira Yamaoka and the very obscure Splatterhouse II score from 1992 by Milky Eiko Kaneda, an author who seemingly disappeared into nowhere. I was 12 years old when I played that game for the first time and it made such a big impact on me, in such a weird way. I recently tried to trace down Milky Eiko just to say ‘thanks for the killer music,’ but no luck so far.
DONE WITH YOU EP review on NEWRETROWAVE.com (by BRYAN EDDY)
Upon receiving this from our editor and firing it up to listen, I was immediately reminded of a stark and grim horror soundtrack… then surprised to hear the layers begin to take shape. And that was just the beginning for Done With You, a delightfully shadowy little EP from Confrontational. After scouring the net for a little background, all I could find was that Confrontational is from southern Europe. Mysterious suits me just fine as a retrowave fan… plenty of our heroes go that way. It detracts nothing from the impact of these songs.
The aforementioned intro track, “Wanderer In Darkness,” leads perfectly, establishing the tone and mood of the whole set. Soft organ chords and carefully faded-in rhythm establish a good sense of spookiness without being corny or over-wrought. The titular track is a bit more upbeat, and VERY 80s. Vapory guitar strumming and flanged synth accompany some excellent vocals, which surprised me with their quality. They don’t seem doctored or tuned at all… whoever’s singing is very talented. It’s almost on par with stuff like New Order, but not as monotonous as they can be. There’s more of the same on the next track, “Giving Ground (The Sisterhood),” but unless I’m mistaken, there’s a second vocalist? I’m led to believe this may not be someone’s solo work. If it is, they have a very impressive range. This track also has some great guitar solo work. It comes across as darkly romantic, which doesn’t appeal to me personally but is extremely well-executed and therefore earns my respect. Ghostly lead-ins and Vangelis-esque arpeggios open up the final track, “Under This Crimson Sky.” This time the vocals are being delivered through a filter… it’s a familiar sound setup, and maybe impresses me the least of all four tracks, but it avoids being a total drone-fest. Overall production on these tracks is commendable, very sharp and crisp with nothing sloppy about it.
I’d give this album seven out of ten. It’s a solid, professional effort, holds significant genre appeal, and the vocals are quite good. It is definitely worth a listen.
DONE WITH YOU EP review on BETTER B SHARP – TARGETAUDIENCEMAGAZINE.com (by Barry Adkins)
I’ve been a follower of Massimo Usai’s music for a long time, and it’s no surprise why. Here’s a man who has fronted a diverse number of projects, has received praise from the likes of Tommy Victor (Prong), recorded with Darren Travis (Sadus), and been part of studio sessions with the legendary group Killing Joke. Not only is he a competent multi-instrumentalist, but he is a confident behind-the-scenes man as well, versed in the roles of mixer and producer. Thus, it was no surprise to me to see him emerge once more with this new endeavor, Confrontational.
Confrontational has arisen from the ashes of noise rockers, Recs Of The Flesh, and dark-wave experimenters, Dahlia Indaco. Usai has focused on bringing together “a melodic approach to aggressively catchy tracks” through the use of “layers of synth, lush guitars, and pulsing beats.” What we’re left with is the debut EP, Done With You, a four track escape from the present into a world painted in post-apocalyptic colors. It’s no surprise, then, to see a cover of “Giving Ground” by The Sisterhood (a side project from The Sisters Of Mercy) make an appearance here, as the release would find a comfortable place as part of a soundtrack to many an 80s horror movie. Make no mistake, however, what Usai has made is far from a relic of the past; stagnant and stale. The music is vibrant, full, and undoubtedly addictive.
When I received this release, my music player auto-assigned its genre as “synthpop.” Honestly, I haven’t had much experience listening to bands in that genre, so I decided to go look up others that might fall within that spectrum. Artists such as Chromeo, Devo, and Owl City were on that long list. Each of these is largely different from the other, and Confrontational is just as far removed. The only thing that they have in common is the heavy use of synthesizer within their music, and even the way they incorporate that instrument differs from one to the next. While Chromeo might be best suited for a club environment, and Owl City has blossomed on the radio, and Devo…well, Devo is something to listen to in your basement, Confrontational is something to be felt.
I don’t know how to really describe it to you, but I’ll try. It’s like a building, burgeoning fog. It creeps in around your ankles and thickens until you can’t make out your feet any longer. Then it begins to rise. You’re nervous to move, because you don’t trust the ground to be there anymore. But the fog continues to rise, finally enveloping you. You sense a pulsing, as though your body is resonating with some unseen force. Then sparks of neon explode around you, catching fire to the air for a moment in time before dying off into darkness and being replaced by another in a myriad of color and design. Are you inside or outside? Are you awake or dreaming? Does it really even matter? And this is just the opening track.
Confrontational yearns to create an atmosphere as much as it desires to create songs with a killer bassline or entrancing melodies. And you know what? It succeeds on all fronts. These tracks are not simply one-off explorations into a chord progression, but pieces of a developing mood. Done With You is an introduction to a bigger story; the kind of music that weaves a fabric of notes together in order to move the listener to a new place of the composer’s imagination, and each of these songs is one step further towards that realization. Confrontational is a band that you have to let just carry you away, and I can’t wait to see where I end up.
DONE WITH YOU EP review on STEREORAMA.it
Giving Ground è un altro pezzo interessante, il ritmo circolare, la voce e le sferzate elettriche si sposano bene; le suggestioni dark intrigano e ipnotizzano.
Confrontational ha talento, pensate che dopo aver suonato nei Dahlia Indaco e nei Recs of the Flesh, lo scorso anno s’è messo in proprio. Done with you è interamente suonato, cantato, registrato e mixato da lui (Massimo Usai) nel suo studio casalingo. Massimo ha recentemente trovato una nuova band con cui sta programmando un Tour in giro per l’Europa. Confrontational ha inoltre partecipato a una raccolta fondi per una ragazza affetta da distrofia muscolare, copio e incollo dalla sua mail: