Antonio Raia is a young and talented Italian saxophonist who chose not to take the path of extreme music-shedding to carve himself a name and shape his identity. His few and very well planned outputs, both as records and concerts, are always arranged with exceptional care and Asylum, his second album, is no exception.
The record, out for the Portuguese label Clean Feed, contains twelve tracks for 31 minutes of play. A collection of short pieces, small postcards suggesting colourful memories and scented glimpses of antique melodies that unleash countless references to Mediterranean timeless traditions.
A welcome gift starting by its name Asylum, containing in itself the concept of acceptance, affording an open attitude that we find again in his approach to structure. The melodic lines in the pieces are fragmented and each fragment then investigated, providing a different angle for us to consider. This exposition follows a well-established and linear continuum in which Antonio takes the listener by the hand and gently guides them along the path, from the beginning to the end.
Across the whole album a strong relationship between the saxophone and the performing space is established. Renato Fiorito, the audio engineer who recorded and mixed Asylum, comes from the film industry and experimented with unusual microphone placement techniques that introduce proximity and take advantage of the peculiar reverberating space in which the album is recorded. The in-situ experience blends together with the sound of the saxophone and offers a rich and deep design of textures that become even more evident when Antonio plays in the lowest frequency range as in “There is wind among the rocks” or when he introduces noisy elements like in “the sound of voice migled with scraps”.
The choice of not recording in a studio nor recording a live concert setting becomes crucial in tailoring the identity of the whole work and contributes a lot to its unicity. Track after track Asylum is always able to surprise and to leave us wondering of what more is that tenor sax capable of. I guess we will hear more from Antonio in the future as we keep our eyes open for important collaborations to come.