On her third album, Berlin-based Dutch-Italian composer and sound designer Aimée Portioli, aka Grand River, asks what guiding forces might be driving, enticing, and affecting us. “All Above” is rooted in her deeply personal philosophy as an artist, blurring the boundaries between electronic music and acoustic music and sculpting familiar ambient forms into personal themes painted with rich emotional colours. Written painstakingly over the last two years, the album is the most ambitious and divergent set of music Portioli has assembled so far, with a wide variety of instrumentation (including voices, strings, organs, guitars, and synthesisers) focused around the piano. She‘s keen to assure listeners that while that instrument isn‘t always heard, it‘s constantly at the forefront of the album, shepherding its emotions and anchoring its mood. It makes sense then that on the opening track ‘Quasicristallo’, the acoustic piano is the first element we hear, recorded closely, so its characteristic rattle and creak can speak as loudly as the familiar tones themselves. When the music blooms into abstraction and processed electronics, it‘s almost imperceptible: reverb mutates into ghostly vapour trails, and distortion forms the keys into another instrument entirely.
“All Above“ follows 2020‘s acclaimed “Blink A Few Times To Clear Your Eyes“ and 2018‘s “Pineapple” released on Donato Dozzy and Neel‘s Spazio Disponibile imprint. Having garnered praise from outlets like Resident Advisor, XLR8R, The Quietus, Inverted Audio, and The Verge, Portioli operates in a unique space within the electronic music scene, straddling the art world and the wider electronic music scene. She‘s developed sound art installations for Rome‘s La Galleria Nazionale and the Terraforma Festival-related Il Pianeta, and has appeared at Barbican, MUTEK, Le Guess Who?, Kraftwerk, and other internationally renowned venues and festivals, often collaborating with Marco Ciceri on A/V presentations. Ciceri also maintains the visual identity of Portioli‘s label One Instrument, a concept imprint that asks artists to create music only using a single device. All this experience is poured into “All Above”, a richly visual album that‘s far more than just an imaginary film score. While on ‘Human’, her piano punctuates a rhythmic synthesised bassline and smudged choirs that can‘t help but trace out the silver screen. The composer is keen to clarify that she doesn‘t think of her music (or sound in general) in visual terms.