Nosound are an interesting band. Much like Porcupine Tree, to which they’re often compared, almost exhaustively, they’re the brainchild of one man. Giancarlo Erra is the motivating force behind the project, lending to it some of his darkest, far flung and original energies. In addition, the project is what you called a “cult project”, with popularity garnered amongst a tight and well defined niche of musicians, super-fans and aficionados. This has allowed Nosound to explore their own sound with relative freedom, unchained from the expectations of a consumer-oriented audience. Scintilla is further evidence of this trajectory, a dark, somber and brooding meditation on progressive rock and modern living.
While the opening track is a bit underwhelming, “Last Lunch”, the second track, is one of the most memorable they’ve ever recorded. Particularly interesting is the effect on Erra’s vocals, lending the entire thing an eerie yet charming feel. This vocal timbre, colored with introspection and distance, is what carries not only the track but the entire album forward. Throughout the effort, the vocals are the embellishment which makes the instruments make sense. It either hovers over them and creates an ethereal plane to their expression, like on “Little Man”, or grabs the reins and directs the track’s progression. The latter can be heard on the beautiful “Sogno e Incendio” (“Dream and Flame”), sung in Italian. there, the vocals are prominent and powerful, dictating the pace for the instrumental composition.
However, overlooking the instruments as players of their own would of course be a mistake, a mistake too often made when describing or listening to projects such as this. The one minute and fifty seconds mark on the above mentioned track is a fantastic example: as the vocals die away, a morose guitar splits the overbearing synths into a beautiful, melodic dialogue which immediately calls Pink Floyd to mind. A different sort of example lies in the closing, self titled track to the album. There, beautiful strings clash with a static created by guitars long before the vocals approach, setting the tone for the entire track. Effervescent choirs are then constructed from that static, coming and going like the tide behind the rest of orchestration.
Such a hallowed and bereft ending to the album nails its basic motivations home. This is an album that’s there to make you feel, to deftly strum the strings of your sense of atmosphere. As such, Scintilla doesn’t have any peaks, larger than life moments that blaze in your mind long after the album has finished playing. Rather, it leaves an impression on you, setting your mood for the hours to follow. There’s a sense of communion in the verses, as the music never seeks to overwhelm you or cause you conflict. Instead, it’s there to be evocative, to draw things from out of you that were always there and might have been forgotten.
Unlike other bands, there’s also no strange sense of hope. Instead, there is curiosity and wonder. The world is hard and memory fades quickly, but the determination to get out there and experience it nonetheless runs strongly through Scintilla. The rising, final notes of the closing track, coupled with the flair of none other than trumpets before the track dies, echo that message as the album closes, a beautiful goodbye to a sensation that, if you’re receptive to it, you’ll visit again and again. For its gentle nature and sense of expression, Scintilla is a charming exercise in humble composition, a worthy addition to an already substantial career.