Argento is the third album from Propeller, alias ex-Zoviet France member Mark Spybey. Although Spybey left ZF many years ago, there’s still something of that collective’s questing spirit about his solo projects as Propeller and Dead Voices on Air. Characterised by thick, insular loops and quietly insistent rhythms, Spybey’s ambient driftworks are cloaked in an aura of steely beauty.
These qualities are well to the fore on Argento, which was recorded in 1999 but is being released here for the first time. The opening “A Bucket of Tar in the Kisser” (one of the many fine titles among this disc’s 13 tracks) sets the scene with its coiled, menacing rhythm and subterranean bass rumbles. The loop shrinks away, leaving a low wall of feedback that merges seamlessly into the juddering metallic squall of the next track, “Bleating Sap.”
Spybey is joined on the album by Eric Pounder, who adds skeletal acoustic guitar to three tracks. Characteristically, on the second of these, “Karl-Marx-Stadt,” the guitar is clouded by livid interference. Indeed, there’s a pleasing textural variety throughout these recordings, reflecting both the list of Spybey’s collaborators (five in addition to Pounder) and the disc’s extended gestation period (it took a year to write and record). There’s spare, haunting piano on “What Is Seen Equals What Is” and the wonderfully titled “ ‘No Man Can Sing Another Man’s Blues’ – Charles Mingus,” while the busier “All Our Yesterdays Have Lighted Fools” sees shards of electronic noise overlaid onto delicate, spidery beats. Such is the range of approaches taken on this impressive disc.