from Ampersand Etcetera 2001-16 (9.26.2001) written by Jeremy Keens
http://ampersandetc.virtualave.net/ampersand.html & firstname.lastname@example.org
Dean Santomieri - The Boy Beneath the Sea [Fou.12] The Foundry/Hypnos
The Foundry has always been more than just music - it has also produced Bentley's chapbooks (which are fascinating and varied in themselves), images have also played a part, on the site and in presentation (exemplified by the wonderful images to accompany Rhomb's 'Hidden Topographies' which I use as wallpaper on my computer, others on site, or the PDFs for the currernt batch of releases). Dean Santomieri's disc combines many of those elements in that difficult of beasts - the spoken word piece. He wrote and speaks the text, accompanied by Bruce Anderson (guitar), David Kwan (sampling, processing, tidal control) and Karen Stackpole (percussion) who improvised the material under his direction.
The writing is poetic and evocative as it tells the story of a boy (Sean) who loves the sea and walks into it, leaving his sister, family and fishing community. Mythic in its movement, and the affect on the townsfolk, the story moves between dreamy underwater visions - a shipwreck, a huge and strange underwater tornado - dreams of the mother and father and the reactions of the sister and a final encounter some years later. Specific and clear in its descriptive moments, the whole is disconcerting and moving. Santomieri has a crisp, clear speaking voice, ebb and flowing with the story and the emotions, very listenable.
While essentially playing second fiddle, the music provides a 'seamless' support to the story. Its is generally delicate and subtle, without intruding on the words - during the narration it drops in volume and underlines the emotions or movement in the tale. During the dream/nightmare sequence it is more atonal and tentative; backwards sounds and metal tones surround the underwater tornado; a strange banging industrial mood accompanies his return. There are also more lyric periods, particularly from Andersonšs guitar, and during more extended instrumentals which open and close the work and two short musical interludes. The percussion tends to shimmering, echoey sounds reflecting off the water, and there is some haunting electronic support as well; a swell of watery sounds throughout.
The disk is divided into eight sections, chapters in effect, indexed to the main changes, which makes relistening or listening to parts a lot easier than the long single track alternative. The balance between music and narration is about right for this type of release; and both complement each other. The difficulty with spoken-pieces is how often you can replay them (I got a copy of Pete Sinfeild reading a story with Eno accompaniment, and have only played it once - too much talk, not enough Eno) - VU got around it with one of their tracks by putting the narration at one extreme, so by fiddling with the balance you could play the music alone. Only time will tell, but I feel that I will be able to listen to this again - the story is primarily evocative images, rather than 'a tale', and so will pall more slowly, while the music is present and foregrounded sufficiently to be listened to for itself, with Santomieri's voice just about submergeable to an instrumental role. It is a fascinating release, which you should definitely consider.
[see also Jeremy's comments on our first releases here, on our chapbooks here, on Seofon's Zero Point here, on eM's All the Stars Burning Bright here, on Mollusk's Accretions here]