Oltrefuturo – Marshall McLuhan

Published by Alessandro Violante on December 11, 2016

oltrefuturo-marshall-mcluhan“Medium is the message”. Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) has been considered one of the most important, if not the most important, media theorist of all times. He had quite a super partes approach, even structural, to the study of media, instead of using the more “pessimistic” ones of those belonging to the so called “School of Frankfurt” like Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer and others. This expression, contained in what is probably his most famous book, a work called “Understanding media”, means that any media should be approached focusing more on its structure and on how it communicates its messages, rather than on its contents. According to his ideas, being a media an extension of human beings, it is not good nor bad in itself. How to approach a media is left to its user.

This introduction is necessary in order to fully understand what Olfrefuturo‘s first album Marshall McLuhan means. The approach of the Canadian theorist is the same shared by Valerio Ebert, based in Abruzzo, already active with HatGuy and Might At Night, released by the Italian / Japanese netlabel I Low You Records. Valerio here portrays a present in which the machines have become important elements of our life, while coexisting with humanity. “Cold” machines go hand in hand with “warm” human beings, to quote words widely used by the Canadian theorist. This sort of exchange is translated in his music by songs in which electronic and “standard” instrumental sounds and melodies perfectly meet, creating an interesting lo-fi hybrid.

In Le distanze non esistono, a distorted piano plays a melody for all its length, highlighting the electronic contamination, and making us think about the Information Era concept of “electronic superhighway”, to quote an expression coined by Nam June Paik in 1974, an artist strongly influenced by McLuhan himself. In these digital times, the flow of information doesn’t know boundaries and distances, and all can be reached in a second with a click of the mouse.

Il mezzo è il messaggio is made of lo-fi minimal bleeps recalling sounds emitted by printers and computers hardware as well, an atmospheric background recalling the sound of Aphex Twin, while the following Il teatro globale recalls the theory of the “Global Village”, according to which there will be a place in which physical and cultural distances won’t exist anymore, where lifestyles, traditions, languages and races will become totally international. It’s another atmospheric ambient soundscape, with a ‘70s melodic and electronic sound emerging in the middle of the song.

La fine della natura emphasizes the dialogue between traditional and digital sounds, a metaphor for the dialogue between traditional and digital era, with an industrial noise distorted flow in which a basic 4 / 4 fast beat emerges transforming itself in a primordial and old school industrial heavy beat as the volume of noise increases, overlooking the rest.

Il ricordo e la temporalità starts from where the previous song ended, presenting a melodic noisy flow in the background. It merges with a syncopated primordial tribal-like rhythm, and suddenly it transforms in a rough rhythmic industrial iterated beat. In the end, these two ideas become one single flow, giving us another metaphor of the Global Village and a mixture of cultures and sounds coming from different countries.

Le memorie fuori dall’uomo starts with another strong rhythmic industrial beat, slowly introducing a basic melodic motif with additional ambient sounds. It is the warm element characterized by repetitions, while the syncopated rhythm is the cold element. In our digital age, memories are stored in computer hard disks instead of the brain, and people rely on them more often then not.

Gli ultimi ricordi stops the flow of noise with a warm and articulated melodic piano sound, put upon an old school disco-like ‘70s beat, increasing its heaviness at the end of the song.

Verso una nuova storiografia is another song in which tribal and industrial sounds coexist, with a progressively emerging noise sound on the background. The artist asks himself what historians and theorists of media have imagined for decades: Which problems historians will face when documenting the digital age? How historiography will change on time? The main reference here is that of the “Gutenberg Galaxy”, written in 1962.

Ricerca sul nuovo ambiente is the closing song, characterized by an ambient mood with a soundtrack-like development, and references to early electronic music, recalling once again experimental musicians who studied these sounds in the early years of the genre.

Marshall McLuhan has a strong old school taste, but its sounds, as well as the words written by the Canadian theorist, seem to catch the Zeitgeist even today, although our world has deeply changed. The lesson of electronic music pioneers hasn’t lost its power, it keeps on influencing young artists as Oltrefuturo and many others. Valerio Ebert here demonstrates he doesn’t live in the past, knowing also the more recent sounds of industrial and rhythmic noise music. Maybe he’s not “beyond the future”, maybe he has interpreted well what’s actually happening in the electronic music scene, but this first record is a good start. The concept behind it is very strong, and difficult to render. There’s only one certain thing: Marshall McLuhan’s lesson is still very fresh, and he would have been proud of what has been made by this musician.

Label: I Low You Records

Score: 8