Bosco Sacro – Gem Review

I love contemplative ambient music as much as anybody I know. I love getting swept away in the darkness and drowned in the cold – these are the soundtracks of movies in my head. Ambient music is divisive at the best of times, and even when you include influences from other styles, it still can feel like sprawling nothingness for the uninitiated ear. In the case of several albums I’ve reviewed in my time here, The Lovecraft Sextet can feel like uninteresting drone in spite of opera and jazz both making appearances, This Is Oblivion can feel like a musical wet sock regardless of how you feel about industrial noise and minimalist folk, and Holy Fawn can sound like a whole lotta nothing in spite of shoegaze-metal brilliance. What does all this mean for Bosco Sacro?

Bosco Sacro is an Italian quartet whose style is unclear, ranging from doom to trip-hop to psychedelic, with drone, post-rock, and of course, ambient tied in there. For their debut, expect lush atmosphere, dark distorted bass, and Giulia Parin Zecchin’s formidable vocal performance, ranging from post-punk slurs to soprano siren croons, recalling the duality of This Is Oblivion’s Lulu Black. Executed with intricate crescendos that pay off in slow-motion explosions, Gem is as ambitious as they come and easy to get lost in – but it doesn’t always help the fact that Bosco Sacro’s surface-level hum can feel simultaneously boring and ridiculously difficult to unravel.

The tracks contained on Gem take their sweet time in unfolding, with cuts like “Be Dust” and “Emerald Blood” balancing the razor’s edge between drone and post-rock, lush crescendos of synth, droning guitar, and warm distorted bass building across their seven-minute runtimes, punctuated by icy and uplifting plucking . Mileposts in their journey are the lo-fi beats that inject a trip-hop flavor amid the swampy tones, with Zecchin’s vocals carrying the track through moods of stark beauty and dark restraint. Album climax “Les Arbres Rampantes” approaches BIG|BRAVE levels of slow-motion brutality in desperate vocals and wrenching chord progressions, narrowly missing drone’s mammoth hammer. Gem’s motifs are in full display, with “Ice Was Pure” serving as a gentle introduction to the majesty of “Be Dust,” and closer “Bosco Sacro” providing calming elements of falling action and resolution to the climax of “Les Arbres Rampantes.” Ultimately, with rich melodies and dense atmospheres, it’s easy to get lost in Bosco Sacro’s obscure breed of metallic-tinged ambiance.

While it’s easy to appreciate the thought and ambition in Bosco Sacro’s blend of atmospheric music, Gem is nearly impenetrable. Unlike acts like Holy Fawn or Ianai, which provide luxuriant movements amid its vast influences, Bosco Sacro is surprisingly and disappointingly one-dimensional. While colors of rainy blue and humid green are promised in the summer evening of Gem, there is little else to the palette. “Fountain of Wealth,” in spite of lovingly warm bass and inviting melodies, is singularly disappointing sandwiched in between “Be Dust” and “Emerald Blood,” the vocals not nearly as charismatic and motifs’ excessive repetition damning their effectiveness. “Ice Was Pure” and “Bosco Sacro” can also feel like letdowns to their counterparts. Furthermore and most divisively, even Gem’s best tracks take time to digest, multiple excavations needed to unearth their treasures, and Bosco Sacro’s inaccessibility and droning inactivity can make listeners wonder if the payoff is worth the effort, even though the album clocks in at a tidy thirty-two minutes.

At the end of the day, Gem is a lovely-sounding album with no pretense of challenging better and more dynamic acts. It’s a nice shiny gloss with little substance to back it, but whether it’s worth the time to dissect is a matter entirely dependent on the listener. On one hand, Bosco Sacro offers well-composed atmospheres and melodies; on the other, it can be incredibly tiresome trudging through the sleepy sprawl to unearth or even distinguish the differences. Armed with a formidable vocalist and ambitious songwriting, Gem is more a clue of what’s to come rather than the treasure trove that this quartet is clearly capable of.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Avantgarde Music
Releases Worldwide: February 10th, 2023

« »