Monofonic Orchestra / Carnival / Plastica Marella

Maurizio Marsico is most definitely a maverick. A musician, an artist in every sense of the word, who’s tirelessly explored the experimental, while hanging on to a strong sense of humour, and the absurd. An “audio auteur” who some will know, I’m sure, from his brief mid-80s flirtation with italo-disco – tongue-in-cheek, on the surface cash-ins such as Funk Sumatra. You might also have heard of his alter-ego, Frisk The Frog. A lot of Maurizio`s more accessible material can be found on the 2017 compilation, The Sunny Side Of The Dark Side, released on the “cult” Italian new wave / dark wave label, Spittle Records. 

Maurizio`s Monofonic Orchestra project was launched in 1981, with an album –  Friend`s Portraits – and a couple of singles – the eccentric electro of Music Design and strange synth-pop of Silver Surfin`. While his output under this alias has certainly been sporadic, it seems to the umbrella “organization” that covers everything Maurizio does. Carnival is a new collaboration with fellow former `80s italo traveller, Mauro Tondini, remixed by long-term associate / fixer, Roger Stanza. Of the 11 tracks, at least half could be viewed as avant-garde interludes. Outsider electronica improvisations of decimated drum & bass and “found” TV dialogue. Announcers and jingles, jammed over industrial hip hop breaks. Tortured harpsichords, and damaged, deranged Speak & Spell Lou Reed covers. All amounting to a crazy sonic collage, that at times could be an “ambient / illbient” techno interpretation of The Beatles` Revolution #9. Howling wolves dance to trance. Guitars are treated and clipped into alien morse code. Vocoder-ed vocals are sped-up, pitched down. Made to sound like Sparky`s Magic Piano on Woodstock`s brown acid. There are, however, also two “crossover” cuts. 

The 10-minute epic, Chinese Trans Espresso, has already found favour with The Orb`s Alex Paterson, who’s been spinning it, in all its mad majesty, on his WNBC radio show. Firmly 4 / 4-ed, and 909-ed, this is Psychic TV`s Jack The Tab meets Trax`s Jack Frost. That Armando / Let`s Pet Puppies tune, where whole thing was recorded at a party, in the loo. Barmy, bonkers, with barking dogs, funk from the street outside filtering through. If you can make it past a brief noise-y section, then you’ll be hit by a bad ass bass-line and a soaring synth solo. Trippy effects panning in stereo. Listening is like stumbling across a forgotten, far-out Gene Hunt cassette-only exclusive, or a lost, fucking freaky, Ron Hardy reel. 

Considering what came before it, the closing, Funk You, is even more of a surprise. A dose of dubby, jazzy – Balearic, even – house with classy clavinet, and strutting wah-wah rhythm guitar. Bumpin`, loose, and almost DJ Nature-like. Just groovin`, and not wiggin` out. When the song reaches its repeated vocal refrain it comes on like Can meets Moodymann.* 

monofonic orchestra 2

Monofonic Orchestra`s Carnival is out now, on Plastica Marella.

A grande “Grazie mille!” to both Leo Mas and Christian Zingales. 

*There`s also a sorta Turkish psyche cover of Can curio, Hoola Hoola, on here. Proving that the band were / are clearly an influence. 

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