By Amanda Nordqvist
Recently formed Italian duo Luton, made up of Roberto P. Siguera and Attilio Novellino, spent the last few months recording several tracks on numerous locations throughout Europe, actualizing their debut release, Black Box Animals. The album is a trailblazer of unapologetic intrigue and colouring outside of the lines; the duo’s sound can only be described as the perfectly sewn together contrasts of pleasant intimacy and haunting imagery. Electro-acoustics play a big part in producing the eerie backdrop and is introduced right away, in Mount Kenya Imperial, with its deep, rough, calculated scenes of turmoil – of huge machines, lost in an abandoned world, not unsettling per se, but sobering and humbling. The ringing, sweeping sounds and the clunking and battering of old machinery are weighed up by the occasional long strokes of strings, adding a human touch to the abandoned, industrial scene.
The moderate, transient Spectres of Mark is gentle in its muddled soundscape, and seemingly a transitioning track, taking us to one of the album’s strongest additions. Södermalm Phantom Cab is made up of three parts; an immersive beginning with car doors slamming and an engine softly purring, that builds into a breathing loop of white noise, strings carefully sliding onto the timeline. Then we’re introduced to a pleasantly unhinged rhythmic, a stumbling determination, a city late at night but someone is wide awake and watching it all. It erupts into a chaotic transition and ends with a big band-vibe, jazzy and mysterious, elusive but oh so intriguing.
The innocence does not last long, as we move onto Eternal Now, allowing the piano at the forefront. It’s a melancholic and eerie piece, reminding us again of what we’re listening to, of what kind of world we’ve entered. Black Concrete hints to more of this darkness, telling of some ‘thing’, masquerading as one of us, walking around in our clothes and speaking our words. The album is a whirlwind of different emotions and sound palettes, with the rolling waves of sinister in Night Avalanche being followed by the expressively experimental Elk Talk, soothing in its carefree curiosity.
Ice Museum becomes the pinnacle of the unsettling story, as I find myself emerged in this haunted place, something otherworldly just around the corner. It slips just out of reach with every breath, the unbalanced rhythmic lending another sense of surrealism. Luton has created a dystopian world inside this beautiful album of theirs, blending the intimacy of acoustic instruments such as the piano and the zither, with the unreachable, fluttering droning – like the contrasts of two highly different but equally sentient beings, finding some middle ground; the forlorn strings like a bridge between the two. Black Box Animals is a flawlessly crafted debut, and one can only hope for many more albums to come.