Grand River, All Above

EMEGO308, vinyl/digital, Editions Mego, February 24 2023

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On her third album, Berlin-based Dutch-Italian composer and sound designer Aimée Portioli, aka Grand River, asks what guiding forces might be driving, enticing, and affecting us. “All Above” is rooted in her deeply personal philosophy as an artist, blurring the boundaries between electronic music and acoustic music and sculpting familiar ambient forms into personal themes painted with rich emotional colours. Written painstakingly over the last two years, the album is the most ambitious and divergent set of music Portioli has assembled so far, with a wide variety of instrumentation (including voices, strings, organs, guitars, and synthesisers) focused around the piano. She‘s keen to assure listeners that while that instrument isn‘t always heard, it‘s constantly at the forefront of the album, shepherding its emotions and anchoring its mood. It makes sense then that on the opening track ‘Quasicristallo’, the acoustic piano is the first element we hear, recorded closely, so its characteristic rattle and creak can speak as loudly as the familiar tones themselves. When the music blooms into abstraction and processed electronics, it‘s almost imperceptible: reverb mutates into ghostly vapour trails, and distortion forms the keys into another instrument entirely.

“All Above” follows 2020‘s acclaimed “Blink A Few Times To Clear Your Eyes“ and 2018‘s “Pineapple” released on Donato Dozzy and Neel‘s Spazio Disponibile imprint. Portioli operates in a unique space within the electronic music scene, straddling the art world and the wider electronic music realms. She‘s developed sound art installations for Rome‘s La Galleria Nazionale and the Terraforma Festival-related Il Pianeta. She has appeared at Barbican, MUTEK, Le Guess Who?, Kraftwerk, and other internationally renowned venues and festivals, often collaborating with Marco Ciceri on A/V presentations. Ciceri also maintains the visual identity of Portioli‘s label One Instrument, a concept imprint that asks artists to create music only using a single device. All this experience is poured into “All Above”, a richly visual album that‘s far more than just an imaginary film score. While on ‘Human’, her piano punctuates a rhythmic synthesised bassline and smudged choirs that can‘t help but trace out the silver screen. The composer is keen to clarify that she doesn‘t think of her music (or sound in general) in visual terms.

Portioli studied as a linguist and used her art to develop an emotional language that‘s not bound by expected cultural constraints. When she adds a different instrument or process, it‘s not to reference a visual cue but to mark a journey through different states of being. Each element embodies a different emotion or mood: the electric guitar represents strength or violence, synthesisers shuttle us into the dream world, and the acoustic instruments highlight intimacy and warmth – even heart. Read like this, the tracks are like meditative poems rather than cinematic vignettes: ‘The World At Number XX’ is seemingly centred around a chugging synthesised arpeggio, but the cosmic, Klaus Schulze-esque pads, strangled guitar and evocative organ tones hint at the open-hearted, literate psychedelia of the 1970s; ‘In The Present As The Future’ meanwhile is breathy and windswept, juxtaposing urgent rhythmic phrases with light, flute-like gusts of harmony.

Dedicated to Editions Mego founder Peter Rehberg, who died suddenly last year, “All Above” demands engagement and refuses to evaporate into the background. The album asks listeners not just to absorb the album as a whole but notice the cracks in the structure and discern the tension they cause. That‘s never more evident than on the closing track ‘Cost What It May’, a piece of music almost jarring when Portioli chops into noisy waves of electric guitar. In the wrong hands, this might sound like a power move – some rock posturing to act as a finale. But Portioli‘s expression is different. She‘s forcing a level of engagement that perceives the negative space as just as necessary as the saturated positive, and what could be more haunting and emotionally resonant than that?

Composed, produced and mixed by Aimée Portioli

Mastered by Stephan Mathieu
Cut by Andreas Kauffelt at Schnittstelle, Berlin
Photography by Federico Boccardi
Design and layout by Riccardo Piovesan
Printed in EU
Thanks to Natasha Rehberg, Isabelle Piechaczyk, Matthias Neuefeind, Bárbara Cameán, Marco Ciceri, Enrica Falqui, Luca Sammartin and Riccardo Piovesan
This album is dedicated to Peter Rehberg, may it resound in his loving memory

EMEGO308 – All rights reserved
(c) 2023 Editions Mego

The musical contents may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed in whole or part without express written permission.



Apr 28 LEV Festival, Gijon
Apr 9 Rewire Festival, Den Haag
Apr 7 Mostra Barcelona Festival, Barcelona *live sound installation
Mar 9 Stereolux, Nantes *A/V w/ Marco Ciceri
Mar 7 Théâtre Hexagone, Scène Nationale Arts Sciences, Meylan *A/V show w/ Marco Ciceri
Mar 5 Folkwang Museum, Essen *live sound installation
Mar 3 Silent Green Kulturquartier, Berlin
Feb 23 Triennale Milano Teatro, Milan *A/V w/ Marco Ciceri
Gen 30 Rhiz, Vienna
Dec 16 Fiber Festival, Amsterdam *live in 4D Sound
Dec 1 Concentric Showcase, Zenner, Berlin
Nov 19 NODE Festival, Modena *A/V w/ Marco Ciceri
Nov 16 Dave Festival, Dresden *A/V w/ Marco Ciceri
Sep 21 Barbican Hall, London *A/V w/ Marco Ciceri
Sep 9 Draaimolen Festival, Tilburg
Jul 24 Tresor 31, Kraftwerk, Berlin *A/V w/ Marco Ciceri
May 28 CTM Festival, Berlin *live in 4D Sound


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