When a band breaks up/goes on hiatus, the most common thing for its members to do is venture off onto their own projects. The disbanding of the latest incarnation of Nine Inch Nails last year is no different; Trent Reznor went on to do some groovy electronica with his wife (and score The Social Network), Josh Freese has gone back to appearing freaking everywhere, Robert Finick’s appearing here and there, and Justin Meldal-Johnsen’s trying his hand at studio production.
Keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, meanwhile, has followed in Reznor’s footsteps and started a new musical project, Sonoio (or SONOIO). But while Reznor’s How to Destroy Angels consists of himself, his wife Mariqueen Maandig, and Atticus Ross, Sonoio is just Cortini (fun fact: “Sonoio” is Italian for “It’s me”), and is the first time he’s worked on a project all on his own.
Now, reviewing this is something different for me because I typically don’t review electronic music, and Sonoio is very much an electronic album. But while it’s electronic, it’s not dance-centric, nor is it poppy. Just to get the assumed NIN comparison out of the way, Sonoio sounds closest to Year Zero with some big chorus moments here and there.The songs find their sound by stacking various effects on top of each other, or by letting a minimal arrangement work on the atmosphere of the music. There’s more than a few ideas on this album.
Sonoio starts off strong with “Just Me”, which exemplifies the “building song” talked about above. It starts with a simple beat and starts tossing in layers of electronics until coming together for a smooth chorus. Cortini’s vocoder vocals (which appear throughout the album) are especially strong here, and this was a great choice for an opening track. Next song “Suck Everything Up” utilizes a paranoid beat and repetitive vocals to be a fairly good slowburner with a more subtle buildup.
Next song, “Not Worth Remembering”, is definitely worth remembering (I am so sorry for that) with it’s giant chorus and sense of tension throughout. Cortini uses a tight attack and release approach here, and it works great. “Not Worth Remembering” is probably the best crafted song on Sonoio. The album’s other standout (and best song) is “Heartbeat”, is a distillation of all the better parts of Sonoio: it builds from nothing, there’s just the right amount of noisy electronics, Cortini sounds poised, and the chorus is to die for. Trent Reznor wishes he would have written this song.
The other five songs on Sonoio aren’t bad. “Silence” and “Memory Loss” are pretty atmospheric tracks that erase the potential sameness of the album, and “Hold On Let Go”‘s shot of energy gives it a decent edge. “Houdini” is ok, and closer “Happy” is a slowed down, remixed version of “Heartbeat”‘s ridiculous chorus that’s flimsy on its own, but helps give the album a sense of closure.
As an album, Sonoio comes off as slightly less than the sum of its parts. If you pay attention through the whole thing, each song has at least moments of brilliance, and even if you don’t, it’s good background music. The lyrics are pretty solid, but not a selling point if you’re on the fence either way. The better songs are definitely the ones that have some bite to them (“Heartbeat”, “Not Worth Remembering”, and “Just Me”) or the shorter songs that focus on being pretty (“Silence” and “Memory Loss”). The kicker is that Sonoio itself barely runs over half an hour, and a solid third of that is the more middling songs that, while they aren’t bad, essentially act as padding. In any case, Sonoio shows that Cortini has a lot of talent and a lot of potential. Three and a half stars with a positive recommendation.
tl;dr: With some editing, a decent album could have been a fantastic EP. Still worth getting, though.
Sonoio’s site is here.