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.