Urbs

Urbs · Recorded at Onix II Studio, Barcelona
Mastered by Mike Griffin · Portland OR
Cover photo by Bruno Sanfilippo
CD released by Hypnos Recordings
Release date: 11 May 2012

DIGIPACK CD
14€
INCLUDED SHIPPING












1- Urban Flow
2- The City Reflected
3- Chaotic Order
4- The Gray Umbrella

The title Urbs derives from the prominent incorporation urban sound environments, recorded by Sanfilippo in urban environments such as train stations, streets, bars and other public areas to explore the boundaries between the textural sounds which surround all of us day to day, and the nature of composed sound art such as music. These “real world” sound textures merge with more traditional electronics such as synthesizers and samplers, leaving no doubt as to the composed and “intentional” nature of these soundscapes. Gentle and evocative, subtly textural and transporting, Urbs is something we genuinely expect to become a long-term favorite among Hypnos releases.

Reviews

  • This CD from 2012 features 67 minutes of urban ambient music. Sanfilippo plays: Korg radias synthesizer, samplers, and field recordings. While most ambient synthesists utilize environmental recordings in their music, the general milieu for these samples are appropriated in the countryside. Here, though, Sanfilippo has confined his sampling to urban locales: inside churches. train stations, subway platforms, and on the streets and in the bars of cities. This lends this music a completely different temperament. While the tonalities tend to be harsher than normal, they are softened by gentle electronics that serve to unify these sounds into a flowing vista of vaporized concrete and windblown steel. Despite the grittiness of the samples, though, these tunes possess a certain tranquility, a comfortable familiarity for city dwellers. Not that the sounds are readily recognizable, for they've been treated and mutated to belong to an eerie palette. Electronic chords lurk within the mix, embellishing the flowing soundscape with noble influences. With only one exception, these tracks are excessively long, affording the soundscapes ample time to establish their ethereal stance and indulge in various variations as they progressed. The compositions seethe with a gentle puissance despite their minimal definition. Regardless of whether you closely study the music or enjoy it as a background soundtrack, the tuneage seeps into the soul and instills a peaceful impression.
    Sonic Curiosity
  • STYLE: Experimental ambient and expressive field recordings. This deeply evocative album centres upon carefully selected urban field recordings gathered by Bruno Sanfilippo from such diverse locations as churches, train stations, subway platforms, streets and bars. Apart from sounds of Grand Central Station in New York, the recordings were obtained within the cities of Europe using just an iPod Touch. Not just textures to add interest to the more crafted sounds of music; these ghostly audio presences are the main forms within these blurry ethereal soundscapes. The opening track blends intriguing noise and dream-like musical abstraction from the very start: delicate tonal swells, twinkles and electronic burbles harmonise with soft footfalls, percussive disturbances, metallic clatter and echoing human hubbub. The second track The City Reflected has a somewhat harsher sound for the first fourteen minutes or so than its predecessor - distant voice fragments and turbulent movements hang among dissonant bell tones and uneasy synth pads. The conclusion softens into hypnotic harmony and leads comfortably into Chaotic Order a twenty-five-and-a-half minute nocturne of welling beauty and environmental sounds presented as if refracted through a heavy veil of sleep. The relatively brief end piece drifts in elegant meandering half slumber - muted chimes and far-off social interactions beclouded by sonic fog. ARTWORK: This glossy two-panel digipack follows the current Hypnos format: broad black upper border with expressive photo-imagery below. Ambiguous urban abstracts of turquoise and red light patterns fill both inside and outside spreads. Repeating fluid swirls pool and flow in and out of shadow like a night-time city in the drenched in rain. Cover notes reveal that the imagery was "captured inside a bus in Berlin City." The rear cover lists the four tracks against their respective times with a quotation from Aristotle musing upon the relationship of an individual to society. Inside, the right panel supports the disc in a clear plastic grip; the left delivers recording information; thoughts on the nature of the music and relevant contact details. OVERALL: Bruno Sanfilippo plunges further and further into the abstruse depths of ambient experimentation with this new release - leaving his more melodic new age origins far behind. This is the first release by the Spanish musician on the renowned Hypnos label and a mighty introduction it is: bold, confident, luxurious and expansive. Here Bruno Sanfilippo has softened his sound palette into such subtle tones that it is pleasingly difficult to define "the boundary between [musical] sound and noise." The usually inexpressive noise of the city becomes another instrument in the arsenal of this skilled audio-sculptor. The four tracks are of fourteen minutes forty-one; twenty minutes twenty seconds; twenty-five twenty-nine and six minutes fifty-eight seconds respectively. You can explore the music at Hypnos or the official Bruno Sanfilippo website.
    MORPHEUS MUSIC
  • The debut CD on Hypnos by ambient maestro Bruno Sanfilippo could not possibly be any more impressive. In fact, to these ears it is one of the finest discs Hypnos has released in the last 15 years. "Urbs", a strange title which makes sense when you discover the urban theme of the music, plays like an alternative, and more ambient, soundtrack to Ridley Scott's 1982 masterpiece "Blade Runner." The striking cover imagery of a photo of Berlin taken through a bus window gives a hint of the surreal soundscapes contained within, which could describe both an urban city and all its stories and emotions, or simultaneously the landing of a spacecraft on a barren and undisturbed extra-solar planet. Sanfilippo utilized only the Korg Radias synthesizer, samplers, and field recordings (of churches, cityscapes, subways, and bars), focusing on the "less is more" approach to sound design, making the music feel open, spacious, and uncluttered. And seemingly, not a sound is out of place as the music unfolds like a radiant dream, a dream which you never want to end. The album is broken up into four tracks but plays like one long track, the first three averaging 20 minutes a piece. This kind of urban environmental ambient has been done before by other artists--check out Paul Vnuk's "Silence Speaks in Shadow" on Hypnos, and Charles Edwards' "Create" series on Fax--but "Urbs" never sounds derivative of those or cliched in any way. And that's probably because the sounds employed on the album are just so jaw-droppingly, viscerally ethereal and beautiful that "Urbs" actually should have been the album to inspire those works. The first two pieces, "Urban Flow" and "The City Reflected," set the stage with gritty, shadowy (but not dark) sound design; "The City Reflected" then morphs into some melodic synth motifs that are incredibly pastoral and calming (I am reminded here of Namlook/Inoue's classic "2350 Broadway" album, which explored similar urban themes). The third piece, "Chaotic Order," the longest, at over 25 minutes, begins with lush, beautiful melodic sine waves over city soundscapes of streets, voices, etc; here. Slowly, some ultra-ethereal blips echo in and out (Tetsu Inoue fans take note) as the track continues its majestic path, pulling you from downtown to the Moon and back again. Later in the piece, some glitchy sounds add some grittiness to the rainy streets. The final 7-minute piece, "The Gray Umbrella," opens with heavily reverberated field recordings of voices in a train station, followed by some incredible metallic sounding synth tones that continue the pastoral feel of the album and create a perfect close. What a phenomenal album! "Urbs" has my highest recommendation, and is easily the best ambient album I have heard so far in 2012. Congratulations Bruno Sanfilippo on an instant classic and unforgettable masterpiece.
    Drone on
  • Bruno Sanfilippo es un compositor que me fascina desde hace muchos años, principalmente desde que tuve el placer de escuchar "Suite Patagonia", pero es un hombre que no ha dejado de evolucionar en su música y en sus últimos trabajos esta se ha vuelto profunda e intimista, ahora nos presenta su nuevo trabajo titulado "Urbs", un disco que está publicado por el sello norteamericano Hypnos. En este trabajo, Bruno se encarga hasta de la portada, con una curiosa imagen realizada desde un autobús en la ciudad de Berlín, algo que nos va a indicar por donde va a circular el contenido del mismo, un trabajo en el que compositor recopila sonidos de diversas ciudades del mundo, entre ellas de New York, en concreto de la Grand Central Station para ir creando un trabajo conceptual que gira alrededor de los sonidos de las ciudades, de esas urbes que se han apoderado del mundo. Comenzar a escuchar este trabajo, es trasladarse al interior del mundo circundante de una gran ciudad, de los sonidos que nos envuelven cada vez que nos adentramos en una, pero entre esa monotía, ese ruido, ese caos, puede surgir la belleza e indudablemente la música de Bruno se encarga de ello. El compositor consigue a la perfección con esta obra hacernos sentir esas sensaciones de opresión, de falta de libertad, de esos ruidos que se apoderan de nosotros, pero Bruno, también nos hace ver que el ruido no deja de ser una percepción y de él podemos extraer música, sonidos que generan composiciones y que nos permiten también soñar, porque la música es una forma de soñar. La concepción de este trabajo, por momentos me hizo recordar un fantástico disco de Vangelis titulado "The City", el disco de Bruno es más oscuro, quizás más íntimo, pero la idea es la misma, esa idea de mostrarnos ese ruido de la ciudad, pero que puede llegar a ser música para nuestros oídos siempre que estemos dispuestos a abrir nuestra mente. Cómo siempre, un verdadero placer el disfrutar de un nuevo trabajo de Bruno Sanfilippo, y que podemos disfrutar tanto en el campo como en un gran urbe.
    A Ultima Fronteira Radio
  • Viaggiare, portarsi appresso il pulsare stesso del mondo ripiegandolo diligentemente dentro un iPod Touch per poi espanderlo dentro l'essenza stessa del suono, quasi fosse un fluido invisibile contenuto in quell'ampolla magica che tutti gli alchimisti sonici si portano appresso durante i loro pellegrinaggi alla ricerca di una possibile perfezione che riesca a riunire, trasformandola in un unica nuova creatura, due componenti forse lontani e diversissimi tra loro ma che appartengono alla stessa matrice primaria: il noise ed il suono. Bruno Sanfilippo, musicista originario di Buenos Aires, residente a Barcellona appartiene a questa affascinante confraternita di maghi pur avendo un diploma classico in composizione . Il suo strumento è il pianoforte ma per disegnare gli intrecci tra i vari elementi che formano questo nuovo lavoro ha preferito usare le sonorità spaziali del Korg sulle quali ha inserito manciate di samplers e, soprattutto, field recordings rubati ad una realtà metropolitana fatta di subways, stazioni ferroviarie, chiese, marciapiedi e bar. Gli scatti che Sanfilippo ci dona sono istantanee cariche di forza espressiva che assumono carattere di distaccato viaggio onirico dentro un universo che sa trasformarsi, da caotico luogo colmo di rumorosa perdizione in metafisico universo straripante sognante bellezza musicale.
    ROCKERILLA N° 381
  • On “Urbs”, Bruno Sanfilippo introduces the listener in the amazing world of city soundscapes and its vast array of noises. Bruno tried to merge this mysterious alchemy from a punctual approach, discrete in elements and discourses. “Urbs” offers a spacious, mysterious and above all hypnotizing sonic ride through the multiple dimensions of inner city life in four lengthy tracks. Don’t think this is kind of background music as the gliding and gradually shifting effect of noises and field recordings melted together demands focussed listening. I’m personally not too amused by the occasional, slightly distracting experimental cracks and noises as employed in “Chaotic Order” (with its 25-minute duration the longest track on the album). Fortunately, a sense of harmony and stillness slides back on “The Gray Umbrella”, in a way slightly approaching Vangelis “Bladerunner” atmosphere. All in all, “Urbs” makes an intense listening experience
    Sonic Immersion
  • Not surprisingly, Urbs, the debut Hypnos CD by Barcelona, Spain-based composer-musician Bruno Sanfilippo, draws extensively upon the urban environment for much of its source material. Field recordings, most of them gathered using an iPod Touch from train stations, streets, bars, subway platforms, and other public settings (in various European cities as well as Grand Central Station in Manhattan) are transformed liberally as they're threaded into the dense fabric of the CD's four compositions. Urbs is not a pure field recordings-based collection, then, but one which uses them in conjunction with Sanfilippo's samplers and his Korg Radias synthesizer. What results is an interesting fusion that merges the everyday city environment that is so indelibly a part of many peoples' lives (and to which they therefore become sonically desensitized to as a result) and ambient-drone synthesizer music. “Urban Flow” alchemizes field recordings gathered from various environments into a nightscape of powerfully evocative character. Footsteps, buzzings, creaks, and clatter are some of the real-world sounds Sanfilippo integrates into the setting, though they're never merely sandwiched together and left untreated. Instead, they're heavily dosed with reverb and merged with synthesizer and sampler-generated elements until a dream-like, slow-motion drone is the provocative result. In “The City Reflected,” muffled voices and crystalline shadings drift across a central mass of echo-drenched haze, with everything moving at an even slower pace than in the opening piece. In a not unwelcoming move, Sanfilippo strips the material back in isolated moments so that a single sound predominates, whether it be water sounds or synth washes—something the track's twenty-minute duration can easily afford to accommodate. That sense of drift isn't displeasing either, as it's used to establish an overall harmonious ambiance that's easy for the listener to embrace. In having softly whistling tones float alongside the muted noises of the city, the slightly longer “Chaotic Order” unfolds in unexpectedly serene manner for its opening ten minutes before glitchy textures extend the piece into rougher territory. The moment passes quickly, however, after which “Chaotic Order” assumes a noticeably extraterrestrial character when lunar transmissions, rumblings, and whooshes grow ever more dominant. The seven-minute “The Gray Umbrella” can't help but feel like a coda when it's so short compared to the other pieces, yet it nevertheless tells a complete story in its melding of synth patterns and reverberant voice mutterings.
    TEXTURA
  • On "Urbs", Bruno Sanfilippo's debut release on the Hypnos label, Bruno works with some previously unexplored styles, moving away from the gentle piano sounds of earlier recordings and replacing them with a more abstract form which I'm happy to discover is just as accomplished and just as appealing as his earlier work. "Urban Flow" is a night time journey through the city, found sounds and drifting pads creating a vibrant and moody film noir environment. As the track progresses, the sound takes a turn for the fantastic with pads stretching and expanding around the soundfield, a wash of sound over the city giving it a golden sheen, illuminating magic that may have gone otherwise unnoticed. "The City Reflected" continues through the city on a rain drenched evening. Cars drive through the mist and puddles while tones arc and bend, high trebly tones piercing like lights through the night time fog. A selection of drones lie underneath, an interesting counterpoint to the beauty of lights. As the piece progresses it very nicely captures that late nighttime feeling that starts around 4am, where things start to get wierd, and where lack of sleep distorts reality enough to make it more surreal. "Chaotic Order" revels in the sounds of crowds in the city, a slow drift through the streets of crowded areas, voices and footsteps, the sounds that people make in a teaming metropolis. Pads drift slowly overtop, interlacing with eachother, forming a delicate latticework of sound that glides across the track in a most appealing way. As time progresses, a second movement finds the pads joined by other sounds creating a very interesting and emotive piece, a fascinating trip through cinematic sound environments. A third movement begins with a gristly tone and a deep windy drone, an intermittently haunting segment that brings the ghosts of the city to life. A very impressive suite. The disc closes with "The Gray Umbrella", a thematic book end to the opening track, presenting a similar feeling of a nocturnal walk through the city streets. Quietly ringing notes play alongside the sounds of the city, complementing and weaving through the natural flow of an urban setting. It's a quiet piece to end the album, a sleepy resolution that suggests that the journey has come to a conclusion and it's time to go to bed. And really, that's the best way to end the album, a feeling of completion, satisfaction, and the sense of security that comes with returning full circle to one's own home. Our trip through the city of "Urbs" is done. Those of you who regularly read the ping things blog will no doubt recognize that I'm running out of ways to say how much I enjoy Bruno's work, running out of ways to say what a talented artist he is. The fact is, I am regularly astonished by his impressive musical talents, and hearing a release like "Urbs" I am further impressed by his versatility, and the way he can easily work within new styles and forms. "Urbs" is a very interesting new direction for Bruno, and as always I look forward to seeing where that direction will lead him.
    ping things
  • Bruno Sanfilippo is a multi-talented artist, capable of crossing genre borders with ease. On his two latest releases, Urbs and Piano Textures 3, he shows two very different compositional sides–and both are superb in their own right. Urbs is a deep ambient disc, beatless and drifting, composed from synthesizer washes, liquid electronic textures and field recordings. This is a heavily atmospheric album, full of impression and amorphous imagery and an almost unfathomable sense of vastness. The field recordings are melted and manipulated into new forms. They dwell like ghosts of memory in the background, retaining recognizable elements–the rolling murmur of a crowd, the lilt of a voice across a public address system. There’s an intriguing austerity to Sanfilippo’s landscapes in Urbs, a wind-swept loneliness that comes to feel very personal. This is about you, separated and isolated in an urban canyon. The pauses between moments, especially in “The City Reflected,” become small eternities of waiting as notes fade into an impossibly distant horizon. Sanfilippo leans toward an uneasy feel throughout much of the disc–”The City Reflected” lightens noticeably toward the end–but his sounds are so foggy, floating and incorporeal that they become oddly lulling. It’s easy to give yourself over to it all. This is never more the case than on the stunning “Chaotic Order.” This 25-minute track evokes Eno in its long-drawn, unobtrusive pads. A repeating chime brings up echoes of Thursday Afternoon. Negative space is used beautifully throughout; Sanfilippo is definitely not afraid to hang a pause. This is a piece you internalize in short order, the cadence of the warm synth bringing your breathing in sync. The field recordings here exist at the edges of hearing, a slight breeze of voices wafting through. Headphone listening is a must with Urbs. Sanfilippo’s details are exquisite, down to the very smallest, and you’ll want to take it all in. Light taps of percussion pepper the background, quiet drones rise and fall, and he never seems to run out of new sounds to fold into the flow. This is a simply amazing piece of ambient work.
    Hypnagogue