Despite the extremely experimental nature of Book of Clouds’ Heavy Chains, I think fans of early Pink Floyd will enjoy this six song release. However, it is clear from the outset that Book of Clouds, a duo compromised of Ian Bouras and Federico Balducci, are interested in far more than referencing established musical norms. Bouras has an established reputation as a boundary pusher with his sonic experimentation and guitar playing that sees improvement with each new release. This is despite the constant challenge his rare and progressive neurological disease Ataxia presents him. Balducci, who assumes guitar duties for this release, has a deep musical education working with some of the finest jazz and classical guitarists in the world. Heavy Chains is the duo’s second effort and, perhaps, their finest yet.

Though it is only six songs, Heavy Chains is difficult to classify as an EP. The length of many of its tracks takes it into full length album territory. It begins with “Prelude”, a very brief opening track. It might not seem like anything musical as the track consists of Bouras’ experiments with pure sound, but it sets a bar. Balducci’s guitar isn’t present at all.

“Primer Eslabon”, the second composition, brings Balducci’s guitar to the fore. I particularly like how he builds sustained and coherent guitar liens that are never rushed, laden with effects but still clear, and conjuring a dreamlike quality. Some readers/listeners may be a bit agog when they realize that, at a little more than twelve minutes in length, this track is the second shortest on the album. Don’t let that scare you off however. Boras and Balducci possess the unique talent for crafting condensed compositions despite their length. There is no wasted motion and the duo select each note with exquisite patience. There’s never any sense of the performance being rushed. The live nature of the recording comes across here as well.

BANDACMP: https://federicobalducci7.bandcamp.com/album/heavy-chains-book-of-clouds-ii

The phantasmagorical elements of the performance are underlined in the third track “Segundo Eslabon”. The clattering percussive style of Bouras’ sound effects creates interesting juxtapositions throughout this track and others with Balducci’s guitar – the primal, in a sense, meeting the ethereal and seamlessly complimenting each other. The extended canvas they tackle for this track, once again, never impedes listeners’ enjoying the imaginative eighteen minute plus ride.

“Tercer Eslabon” begins with a bit of speaking before transitioing into the track. It brings Ayumi Ishito’s saxophone into play and it gives this performance a much different feel than any other recording on this album. The track has a near ephemeral feel as if it could float away at any given time, but it never does. It strikes me as something close to hallucinatory jazz.

The album’s final performance, “Quinto Eslabon”, has a much darker hue than the earlier track. It eschews melancholy reflection in favor of a kind of cosmic symphonic style. It has a much denser sound than the earlier songs and ends Heavy Chains in ambitious fashion. Book of Clouds sets challenges for themselves they meet at every turn.

Nicole Killian

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