Ascanio Borga cut his teeth playing guitar in noise rock bands, evidence of which rears its head fairly early into "Xenomorphic", his new disk on the under-recognized Afe label. The (title) track starts off in an ambient neo-Eno vein and then splits off into a thumping one chord metal riff. It's only metal in relation to the guitar tone actually. If the tone was different it could pass for a Krautrock motif because of the stuttering, repetitive rhythm.
Borga augments the guitar pattern with other guitar noises, sometimes gratuitous soloing, tasteful percussion and a bevy of granulated background sounds. There also seems to be some bass, which sounds like the real deal, though it's getting increasingly more difficult to tell these days, with the advent of digital music programming.
Borga has a musical background, and the painterly quality of the aforementioned title track makes this very evident. He starts the piece with noise, subtly piling on each element, slowly building forward momentum, the caps it off with the same noisy background which began it.
The next track, "Equilibrium", is a bit closer to what some might simply label "ambient", for lack of a better term. It features similar tribal percussion, along with a sound which could have been generated by either very carefully controlled guitar drones or synthesizers. Regardless, it's a sweeping sound which starts somewhere off in the distance, then gets nearer sounding, the tone of which reminds me of a woodwind instrument. The spatial quality of the track puts sense to the title, yet for some reason I imagined the sound as large birds swooping overhead.
The centerpiece of the album is the thirty minute long "Apnea (The Hollow Mind)". It's more nightmarish than the album's other tracks, at least in part. It's very subtle, wandering into little interludes of almost cinematic clarity over the first twenty minutes or so. Close listening is rewarded. Percussion doesn't figure into the piece, which I suppose takes it into "beat-less ambient" territory, but it's best to forget the terminology and enjoy the ride. After the first twenty minutes, the music dies down to near silence, then fades up slowly to a drone, which sounds generated by keyboards, then e-bow guitars. Borga then adds a few minutes of wandering guitar soloing over the backing to the track's conclusion.
The last track is a noisy, feedback encrusted swirl of drone called "Raw Ground". It's simple, but quite effective. The various frequencies generated by guitar feedback, a mid toned e-bow (or in any event an e-bow-like sound) and a boatload of unidentified sounds make for a fine end to "Xenomorphic".
Borga hasn't really created anything completely new here, but what makes it interesting is that he isn't afraid to follow his own lead. It's rare to hear an experimental musician nowadays mix rock elements with ambient sounds, and it's even rarer for such a thing to succeed. Borga pulls it off because he sounds authentic, like he's making this music for himself. It's this attitude which also makes it a distinctive experience for the listener.