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Nheap is the nom de guerre of Italian drummer/composer Massimo Discepoli. The projects he puts out as Nheap are ethereal, mostly mellow electronic excursions accompanied by his own live acoustic drum work. Clouds Under The Table marks his third collection as Nheap.
"Ambient" might begin to describe this music, but the presence of Discepoli's relatively straightforward drumming gives the compositions more of a rootedness and energy than that to which most typical electronic ambient music lays claim. Certainly "atmospheric" goes a long way as a descriptor. This does not fall into the dance music realm, either. Though slightly beefier, most cuts from this album would not be out of place on a Windham Hill sampler.
This album is best taken as a whole as the individual tracks do not have much by way of distinctive character, though that assessment is not as harsh as it may sound. There are moments, as with the penultimate track, "Crossings," where the overall gentleness gives way to compositional strength or slightly bolder statements.
In fact, Clouds Under The Table ends much more intriguingly than it begins. In addition to "Crossings," the closing "Rides" offers much more than texture. With a percolating rhythm and assertive keyboard work, it points to a more fully formed direction in which Discepoli is capable of taking his composing and performing.
Acustronica, the label Discepoli founded to distribute his own music and that of like-minded players, operates on a model of free distribution, donations and some sales of digital and physical product. The mission seems to be more about providing an artistic outlet for reaching curious listeners, and in that light this is a worthy project to support. By making a record like Clouds Under The Table available for free, those who appreciate it can vote with their wallets and encourage Discepoli's continued explorations and growth.
Track Listing: Gradients; 5 march; The Snow That Never Falls Down; Daily Improvisation; Clouds Under The Table; Sands; Crossings; Rides.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.