Khen introduce silence (2003)

Taking basic improvisations only from sounds produced by Khen (mouth-organ from Thailand/Laos) and processed by  different controls like filters, pan and multi-effects, Stefano Musso looks for a vibrational enviroment  that is like a special point of view,  where time changes his meaning and sometimes becomes absolutely relative, finding a place for contemplation, like being in the clouds and breathing with the sound of the spheres.  Observe the circular harmony of seasons in his never ending flow, it speaks like old poetry that is familiar to the soul.

Label Press

The time between Alio Die's last work, "Il Tempo Magico di Saturnia Pavonia, and now was clearly the calm before the storm. Three new titles of Stefano Musso's work, both solo and in collaboration, are now available to the ritual-ambient listening public. First up is Khen Introduce Silence, comprised of all new solo Alio Die tracks, all derived from the sound of the khen--a mouth organ from Southeast Asia. "Organ" is an adequate description of this instrument in the context of this album--when processed by Alio Die, it begins to sound reminiscent of a sonorous and otherworldly church organ. Its sound is dissonant and tonal, close in spirit to the Forrest Fang track "Some Unfinished Business" on Gongland. This dissonance is jarring at first, but once the listener relaxes into the sounds, it begins to make a strange sort of tuneful sense. The opening track, "Puntar orecchio alle sfere" immerses us immediately into this strange tonal world, with environmental noises accompanied by the strange hooning of the processed khen, which, after a time, begins to twinkle in an otherworldly way. The sounds are unabashedly organic, as with the rest of Alio Die's work, managing to create a strange natural stillness from what is essentially a man-made element. Things get really ambient on track three, "Accarezzando soma come si fa con una piuma," when the khen is processed down into a slow stillness as the different drones wax and wane -- the khen is still recognizable here, but it is used in a soft, almost phased, manner, creating an ululating zone of tones. "Introduce Silence" manages to transcend the khen origins, making the sounds drone even more softly -- taking this ethnic instrument and bending it to the will of Musso, in order to create a zen-trance state of quiet ambience. The final track "In Vulvica Risonanza" is perhaps one of the most exciting and experimental pieces Musso has done to date. It begins with a swirling drone and heartbeat vibrations that gradually give way to a frog croak -- which quickly transitions to khen harmonics -- which blend back into the swirling drone -- which transition back (with the frog croak) into the khen harmonics. These two loops continue thus for five minutes, basically the same two strips of sound, making what is essentially an eternal Mobius strip of music -- activated by your CD player's repeat button. The transition is jarring at first between loops, but eventually, after a few cycles, it lulls you into a trance of repeated sonic elements. I've never heard anything like this on an environmental ambient recording and the effect is truly awe-inspiring. Khen Introduce Silence, while maintaining a certain sameness between the seven tracks, integrates an unusual instrument into a shockingly beautiful ambient setting. Alio Die continues to make work that progresses into newer terrains, while still maintaining the sonic touchstones that made the music so exciting in the first place. This disc is like a magic window into an ancient time where the sound of a human instrument and nature around meld into otherworldly harmonies.

Brian Bieniowski  

STYLE Waxing, waning, organic minimal ambience all built around the extended drones of the khen - a mouth organ from Thailand or Laos. Naturally in the hands of Alio Die and having undergone appropriate processing this simple instrument is the source of unearthly strands of varying harmony and dissonance. Thickening the leading drones are various environmental recordings ranging from what sound like Tibetan chimes and faint voices to tricklings of water, distant thunder, birds, crickets, frogs. The final track on the album takes the unique approach of gradually building a rumbling ambience populated with crickets or frogs and then abruptly cutting to a familiar khen drone - this drone gradually fades and the process repeats. What initially feels distinctly odd, gradually becomes a rhythm until once again we're drawn comfortably into Alio Die's distinct sound world.
MOOD  The mood is other-worldly and timeless - sometimes sombre (as occasionally drones are) but more often serene or meditative. The water effects soften the atmosphere, frequently leading us between tracks, sometimes becoming the focus as the khen recedes. Some pieces are slow and almost monumental whereas others waver to and fro with revolving tonal cycles layering like waves. We are left with an impression of artist and environment collaborating together to realise a peculiar musical concept.
ARTWORK   The front cover artwork is highly textural - apparently dappled with patterns of light. The back cover features an enigmatic, dislocated stone ear listening under the surface of a pool of water. Across these panels the unobtrusive text is simple, black and functional. The inner booklet has no words at all - simply a photograph of a tree reflected in water - one could easily imagine the artist himself hidden here, sharing the khen with the location. Track titles are all in Italian except track 6 - 'Introduce Silence'.
OVERALL This collection of humming ethnic mouth-organ tones is not the most accessible of albums - but once the listener is absorbed, the effect is one of natural tranquillity. Stefano Musso is credited with playing: khen (mouth organ), drones and loops. He also produced the environmental recordings taken in Thailand and in Lunigiana/Italy. Ginfranco Cualbu plays percussion on one track, Francesco Paladino provided the environmental sounds from Katmandu and Nepal and Teo Zini/Opium those from Topolo', Italy.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This CD will likely be enjoyed by those drawn to experimental ambient music. The overall effect is minimal, environmental, meditative. Alio Die is working far, far from the mainstream of modern music - if you fancy a trip to somewhere musically distant, this might be for you, just don't expect nice beats and friendly melodies.

Morpheus Music Rewiews

On 'Khen Introduce Silence' Alio Die improvised drones, loops and most interestingly, his playing of the khen(e), a Laotian mouth organ mentioned above, over field recordings collected by himself and friends from Thailand, Nepal and his native Italy. Lovely, sustained pitches coming from deep down in the belly satifsy the soul and hunger of the listener. Stirring and uplifting.
The semi-title track ‘Introduce Silence’ is absolutely mesmerizing, engulfing the listener in warm comfortable numbness even as the strom clouds litererally gather.
The sounds combine until we hear a pipe-organ playing in an open-air cathedral located by a stream running through a redwood forest - like the trees, the sound just soars heavenward and seems never to stop.

Stephen Fruitman

The name of Stefano Musso stands as of one of the true pioneers of ambient drone music having been active in the scene for nearly two decades releasing well over 20 CD¹s during this period via his highly acclaimed project, Alio Die. Released on CD in 1992 on the respected Projekt imprint ‘Under an Holy Ritual’, received widespread praise and kick-started an illustrious career in the largely underground music scene. As aptly summarised on Musso's website Œcharacterized by evocative acoustic sounds manipulated and tendered electronically, Alio Die's work builds intimate soundscapes tied to the mystery and majesty of life and nature. And that really does sum up Alio Die’s ethic, in a proverbial nutshell. As well as a plethora of solo releases Stefano Musso has collaborated with many well, known artists including Robert Rich, Vidna Obmana, Antonio Testa and mathias Grassow which demonstrates the pedigree of the man.
‘Khen Introduce Silence’ is a 2003 CD release on Musso’s own Hic Sunt Leones label and is a luxurious meisterwerk of ambient drone. As the press for this release reads Œtaking basic improvisations only from sounds produced by Khen (mouth-organ from Thailand / Laos) and processed by different controls like filters, pan and multi-effects, Stefano Musso looks for a vibrational environment that is like a special point of view, where time changes his meaning and sometimes becomes absolutely relative, finding a place for contemplation, like being in the clouds and breathing with the sound of the spheres. Observe the circular harmony of seasons in his never-ending flow, it speaks like old poetry that is familiar to the soul. With these words ringing in our ears I think it’s time to embark on a voyage of discovery and attempt to give a flavour for this superlative listening experience.
At journeys beginning, softly, the gilded silver strains of  ‘Puntar orecchio alle Sfere’ penetrate the silence, warm drones ululating gently on a breeze of vaporous, organic sound. Subtle changes in texture and timbre in a warm haze of drones create audio illusions akin to tricks of the light and shadow. The sound of the Khen has been stretched and altered, filtered and manipulated so that it is transformed into a basso profundo organ drone that underpins the whole track whilst soft, warbling tones skitter freely in the air above. Stefano has skilfully manipulated the sound to yield a soundscape of intense beauty that touches on the sacred; perfect for deep contemplation. ‘Gli ossidi del divenire’ begins with a low keening drone overlaid with simple temple percussion that lends an air of fragility and ritual to the evolving soundscape. The sound of the khen is dissected, laid bare and stitched back together into an other worldly drone that seems to waft through the mix like a creeping fog. In ‘Accarezzando Soma come si fa con una piuma’ the atmosphere is light and airy, undulating softly against the sound of running water. This is the sound that light makes as it falls onto transient clouds of spray kicked up from eddies and currents in small streams; golden and shining, twinkling like metallic motes of dust caught, momentarily in filtered shafts of fiery light. This track is the perfect accompaniment to deep relaxation, imagined waves lapping at the shore of distant memories. Despite the seeming simplicity of the musical elements employed, here, each tract of aural sinew has been carefully and skilfully woven into a complex tapestry of generative sound, organic, natural and imprinted with genuine emotion.
‘Fu' cosi' il sogno a tessere radici a terra ed a provvedere al nutrimento’ froths and foams with the sound of the khen being delayed and effected to produce an arythmic, yet totally musical bed of sound. Underneath, deeper drones are at work, rising and falling according to some unfathomable inner cycle. There is a vestige of urgency imprinted into this particular track that gives new direction in contrast to the feel of the earlier tracks on the album. It acts on the mind like some altered state, jarring the subconscious into uncharted territories where a sense of place and time are rendered meaningless. Delayed motifs slowly decay into the aether as the track approaches its conclusion gently bringing the listener down to Earth. Watery splashes finally lead the track out to a close, almost acting as a metaphor for some deep, ritual cleansing process. Distant voices guide us into ‘Una vena preziosa’, the sound of a bullfrog croaking and chirruping against a backdrop of soft drone beds and strangely panned ethnic percussion. This almost strays into New Age territory with heavy use of nature sounds complimented by pitched pulses of sound and floaty-light drone melodies. This is a chilled out journey into some sacred forest. You can almost feel the heat rising from the forest floor, carried upward on steamy, convective currents into the realm of wood spirits.
‘Introduce Silence’ begins with glacial, slow-burn layers of drone that each seem to fade in and out of the amorphous flow of sound according to their own inner cycles. Sounds of cicadas call out, plaintively, almost giving the track a sense of rhythm. This is music or the nocturnal inner voyager; somnolent and hypnotic. Muted, reverberant crashes like distant thunder occasionally punctuate the air giving the feeling of some distant storm slowly circumventing the night sky. This is a warm and sticky drone opus that clings like due to the morning grass, pastoral and wondrous, full of portent and omen. Finally, the moment passes and all activity fades, borne away on a glacial brume. Final track, ‘In vulvica risonanza’, is carried into being on the back of golden filaments of high tuned drones, like some fragile thread of gossamer resonating in the breeze. Just as the track seems to settle into itself and relax the atmosphere abruptly changes with a glitch that leads into more experimental territory. If the sound of a shoal of fish all suddenly changing direction at once due to some trigger stimuli could be rendered into slow motion and transcribed into sound I am pretty sure it would sound like this. The track continues in a similar vein carefully alternating between drone, near silence and then glitch to a new state like some quantum effect in the fabric of sound.
Alio Die manages to tap directly into a rich and seamless vein of sound that is at once natural, ephemeral and majestic. This is sound that invites the listener into a state of contemplation and relaxation as if by divine seduction. There is a fragility present in three tracks that intimates a oneness with the elemental aspects of nature. ‘Khen Introduce Silence’ holds you in its thrall, bathing you in a soft lament. This is music of the spheres nectar of the gods; a wondrous aural experience for all that submit themselves to the spirit of nature and relish the transient sanctuary of peaceful contemplation. Thoroughly recommended.

  Adam X /