Blastula, the duo of vocalist Monica Demuru and percussionist Cristiano Calcagnile, is ostensibly concerned with the musical concept of ‘littleness’ which they manifest in a multitude of ways throughout “Scarnoduo.” Their performances are as naked, intimate, and personal as music can get – Demuru’s dramatic multi-lingual vocals seem almost confessional at times. Though I rarely understood what she was saying, the feeling that she’s sharing somewhat inscrutable in-jokes and closely-guarded secrets with the listener is quite palpable. There are times you can hear her breathing, and the little noises one’s mouth inevitably makes when it’s in motion. Similarly, Calcagnile frequently sacrifices his considerable percussive technique to pursue extended textural variations and sound-color possibilities using a standard-issue jazz drumkit. As a player, Calcagnile’s most obvious reference points are David King (of the Bad Plus) and Jim Black – he utilizes both similar drum tunings and the sort of rock-based, jazz-informed vocabulary that Black and King have made hugely popular in recent years. Throughout “Scarnoduo” he refers to a dizzying array of rhythmic motifs – jazz, rock, Brazilian, and African elements crop up frequently, as do marches, polkas, and Art Ensemble-like sonic experiments. Demuru is an incredibly diverse vocalist whose unstintingly beautiful singing also refers to a wide variety of styles – from the operatic, to jazz scat, folk, avant-garde, and rock / blues. During the course of a piece, she often changes the timbre of her voice, as a monologist would during a dramatic reading involving multiple characters. In fact, Blastula frequently wanders into theatrical and poetic realms to get their musical points across. So, in their quest for ‘littleness,’ Demuru and Calcagnile may have succeeded more fully in uncovering their own ‘vastness.’
As if the music weren't enough, the CD comes packaged in a lushly-illustrated glossy paper envelope with eight little illustrated cards. Quite fetching, indeed!