REVIEW: Federico Balducci — And watch the earth below (Cadet Chronicles I) (LP)

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. By my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return… Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” This is the Oliver Sacks quote attached to Massachusetts-based ambient wizard Federico Balducci’s Bandcamp page for the release of his latest album, And Watch the Earth Below (Cadet Chronicles I), originally all lowercased. Ironically tied to an album about being in a hot air balloon, the quote bears particularly heavy weight towards the concept behind the instrumental project, functioning as (nearly) the sole words given space to speak for the piece outside of the album’s name and its eight song titles, and it works as a fantastic gap-filler within subconscious visuals one might receive while the music plays. The only other pieces of spoken dialogue are spoken-word sections layered deeply into the music across several tracks, but these are used more as instruments than they are actual vocals.

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And Watch the Earth Below (Cadet Chronicles I) is a beautifully constructed piece of ambient and instrumental soundscape composition that feels as tied to riding through the air as it might feel to travel through deep space — Balducci’s mission statement on his Bandcamp is one that he has stayed true to, advertising “dreamscapes for hope & the facilitation of enlightenment,” across his ever-expanding discography (featuring over one hundred unique releases through Bandcamp.) This most recent release dons a hot air balloon upon its cover to complement the floating, distorted sounds and maintain consistency sprinkled throughout the project (especially in the opening of the seventh track, “What is and what is not.”)

To nobody’s surprise, one of the tags associated with this project is “experimental,” though, to say the album is purely experimental is a great understatement… which is probably why Balducci decided to go one step further by tagging And Watch the Earth Below as both “experimental space jazz” and “noise.” The former tag is one used by a wide variety of artists on Bandcamp, it seems, and it more or less feels apropos to categorize the music contained within this project as such. Comparisons between Balducci’s oeuvre and fellow ambient-enthusiast Brian Eno are startling but ultimately feel too constraining to work as an overarching statement. Federico Balducci is offering one-of-a-kind experiences within his albums with direct influences being unable to fully pinpoint across the board — and to be honest, the album is all the better for it.

And Watch The Earth Below (Cadet Chronicles I) hints at more to come within the very nature of its title and, judging by Balducci’s consistent release schedule, it’s safe to assume that listeners should be able to hear more at some point soon. As is, the introductory chapter to this project is a resounding success that will undoubtedly find its place within the community of experimental and ambient fans and should serve as a more than satisfactory jumping-in point for those looking to explore the musical portfolio of Federico Balducci.

Colin Jordan