Secret Thirteen Interview - Esplendor Geométrico

Interview with Esplendor Geometrico - Industrial

Saverio Evangelista & Arturo Lanz. Photo by Óscar García

Taking their name from the famous Manifesto of Futurism by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Esplendor Geométrico have always been the primary driving force behind the Spanish industrial scene and influenced many artists during their 35 year career. The story behind their title partially describes their sonic sensibilities - distorted mechanistic soundscapes framed by monolith precise rhythmics merged with traces of coldwave and synth music. Esplendor refrains from any political statements, but their early music nicely reflected the tensions and anxiety of 80’s Europe and the rough nature of architectural and technological advancements. It is like a brutalist tower block transcribed in sounds, the aesthetics of machinery.

Later on the duo developed their sound further and incorporated Chinese, Arabic and African influences thus expanding their musical palette further and making their discography even more adventurous. However, their trademark subtle harshness remained intact, but the overall sound gained more ambient and abstract moods, which was perfectly illustrated by their excellent 2013 release “Ultraphoon”, a hypnotic, immersive and exotic journey across unknown sound terrains.

On the 28th of February Lithuanian audience will witness one of the rare performances of Esplendor Geométrico, which will take place in club “Kablys”, a former meeting place for the railway workers now converted into a concert venue situated on the outskirts of Vilnius old town. Before the gig one half of the duo Saverio Evangelista shed some light on the background of this legendary project in the interview below.

Paulius Ilevičius: Your name is based on the Manifesto of Futurism by Italian F.T. Marinetti. The futurism was quite a radical and innovative movement. How it influenced your sound/ideology? How do you see it from present-day context and how do you think new generations perceive it?

Saverio Evangelista: Yes, our name was taken from a poem by Marinetti: “Splendore Geometrico e Meccanico”. For us it was just an “aesthetic” choice: we liked that name, nothing else! Of course we knew who was Marinetti and what was Futurism (and, by the way, we liked it). But they didn’t influence us. At the beginning there was one thing that influenced us: music. I’m talking about other groups like Cabaret Voltaire or Throbbing Gristle. But, as I said, it was just at the beginning because very soon we took a personal way, different from other groups.

We don’t know how new generations perceive it and, to be honest, is not so important for us: when we see young people at our gigs that enjoy our music we are very happy, that’s all!

PI: You both live in different continents, mainly Asia and Europe. How does this fact influence your art/creative process/communication?

SE: Before one of us (Arturo) went to China 16 years ago because of his job, we already lived far from each other: one in Spain and the other in Italy. So things didn’t changed so much when Arturo went to Asia. The world was very different compared to today: the modems were just 56Kb (or less…). But few years later the things changed a lot. Nowadays we can exchange big files, share ideas, talk with Skype etc. Obviously, in some way, living in a place influences you as a person, first of all and as an artist as well. For example, we often use some oriental voices in our tracks or some images related to China or Japan.

We think that’s very difficult to speak about something so deep related to ourselves. When we started (long time ago, this year we celebrate our 35th anniversary!), in our countries the electronic musical scene was very poor (however, a strong new wave movement existed). It wasn’t easy to access information (very different from today), but at the same time we had a lot of curiosity and this curiosity helped us to know other groups and to start making music by ourselves.

I’m talking about this, because in this case our countries didn’t influence us “positively”. But, at the same time, we are sure that the place you live influences you strongly and probably this could explain why since the beginning our music wasn’t exactly the same like music composed by English, German or even American groups.

PI: What place in your discography does your 2013 album “Ultraphoon” occupy? What does that release mean to you? Is it more of a summary of your past or an introduction to new period?

SE: “Ultraphoon” is very important for us. We are convinced that is one of our best albums. We are very satisfied with tracks and with sound: our friends Francisco López and Teho Tehardo, two magnificent musicians, made the mastering.

We don’t think that is a summary of our past or an introduction of a new period: it is a new step in our evolution. When you listen to it you recognize immediately EG sound but at the same time, if you followed our past releases, you find a lot of new suggestions.

PI: Your sound, especially the earlier material contains some political undertones. Do you try to convey a certain message or do they serve more for aesthetic purposes? What do you think of the relation between art and politics? Do they have to go together?

SE: It is like the choice of our name: it wasn’t an ideological choice, but more aesthetical. Don’t forget that Esplendor Geométrico was born when the punk movement was still alive (“punk was not dead”), and most of the choices were made just for provocative reasons. We are not interested in politics or even art (at least when we compose our music). At the same time we know that “everything is politics”, so a title, a video, an image for the cover of an album should be understood (or misunderstood?) as “political”. For example, talking again about “Ultraphoon”, many of its titles are African words and as we said, this choice isn’t “political”, but someone should say (and, probably, is correct): the choice to be “unpolitical” is itself a political statement.

PI: Could you shed some light on how your track "Moscú Está Helado" was born? Is it an irony or more of an aesthetic reflection of realities of that time?

SE: “Moscú Está Helado” is a transition track. Before that, Arturo founded another group Aviador Dro (another name taken from Futurism movement as it was the title of an opera by Francesco Balilla Pratella). Aviador Dro was a techno-pop group. Very soon Arturo left the group and founded Esplendor Geométrico. “Moscú está helado”, was one of the first tracks still influenced by techno-pop style and it was very different from the tracks that Esplendor began to compose very early. This is the reason why we don’t consider it “exactly” an Esplendor track. It wasn’t ironic, it was simply fun.

PI: Having in mind the fact that you have been involved in the scene for a very long time, what changes have you observed during all those years? How do you see the current situation/revival of minimal/industrial scene?

SE: We don’t follow the scene, but we noted that we are performing more than in the past and this is obviously a good thing.

PI: Machinery is a prevalent aesthetical element in your art. What do you think about the present-day technologies? Do you think they do more harm or good? How do they influence art?

SE: Technology is fundamental for us: we are not musicians, so electronic instruments are indispensable, without them we would not have existed. Obviously, when we began, technology was mainly analog and today it is mainly digital and we use it in the same “intuitive” way: we have a very elementary approach to technology. For us an instrument is just an… instrument!

PI: What is the current situation in industrial scene in the countries you live, China and Italy respectively?

SE: As we previously said, we don’t follow musical scene and, by the way, both of us are now living in Europe. We would like to take this question to clarify our relationship with the industrial scene: of course our first releases, in the 80s, were industrial, but since the early days we considered our music “industrial” in a different way from what others considered “industrial”. We moved away that genre. We understand that human being needs to classify, needs to tag books, movies, music. For us, it is not a problem to be considered an industrial group, but when, for example, we played in techno festival in Uppsala named “Volt”, we didn’t feel “strange” in that environment and, probably, the public had the same feeling. To be honest, we don’t have an exact label to describe our music, but what do you think about “electronic primitivism”?

PI: What are your key non-musical inspirations? What other art forms (or not only art) inspire you?

SE: When we compose our music, we don’t follow any inspiration. We begin with a rhythm that we like, a small loop for example, we play it for hours, and if it doesn’t bore us, we decide that it is ok. We enjoy making music and this is the only “motor” that moves us!

Apart from artistic inspirations, Arturo is also inspired by meditation and sport: he ran in several marathons, and besides running, he likes to swim several kilometers every day!

In my case, my biggest passion (besides music, obviously) is mathematics. I’m very interested in relationships between sound and numbers.

Links: website - discogs

About Author

Paulius Ilevicius is a Secret Thirteen journalist, editor and occasional DJ focusing on more dreamy and melancholic soundscapes. Born in post-industrial town of Pavevezys, currently he lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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