Foti, Gino - Orbis Terrarum

Year of Release: 2006
Label: self-released/Net Dot Music
Catalog Number: NDM WFM 01
Format: CD
Total Time: 66:35:00

In 2006, Electrum bassist Gino Foti released four instrumental releases, the first of which is Orbis Terrarum. This is quite different from Electrum; nary a Rush or rock reference to be found. No, instead what you will find is a sonic journey through varying moods and modes of World Music. It is some times jazzy, as in the tangy "Credo" with its spicy, fleet-fingered piano elements, moody bass, and the seasoning of percussion; or "A Brief Eclipse," which includes jazzy piano figures from guest Chris Rossi. It mostly plays like a travelogue through the Middle East and Southern Europe, sometimes mixing the two elements together, as in the slinky, flamenco-like "Privilege Of The Strong".

This is sophisticated music for a learned audience. Not to suggest that the instrumental rock created with Electrum is any less sophisticated in construction or execution, but that there is a heightened element of sophistication here in terms of attitude or expression. Not so heightened that it comes across as crass, or takes itself too seriously - "Vivir En Alegria" is downright playful, with tinkling piano dancing across a jaunty yet muted guitar, and bass tangoing with drums and percussion. But then, translated, the title means "Living In Joy" (roughly), so anything other than a joyful arrangement would be too cynical. It is the opposite of a piece that comes two before it - the dark and industrial "Wan Wu: Part II - Disciples Of Death," where deep, throaty, distorted guitar buzzes amongst the clacking bones of percussion and whine of ? bass throbbing like a frightened and racing heartbeat.

"Modes of Consciousness: Part 1 - Dionysian Stream" is dark and warm, with a hint of danger. It has a decidedly Middle Eastern flavor evoked by the rhythmic percussion, a rhythm matched by the bass. The main motif is echoed by synths and guitar in a dance that in some ways has the feel of the two squaring off against each other. That lead guitar is courtesy of Foti's Electrum cohort Dave Kulju. It is an energetic piece that doesn?t stop moving once it gets going. Its counterpart is the closer "Modes Of Consciousness: Part II - Apollonian Stream" which takes the same basic motif, but is lighter, airier. It puts a resonant piano in the lead role, as it, fat noodly bass, and metallic percussion wend their way through a nearly-baroque sonic landscape. It has an old world feel with new world clarity.

Now, as I'm wont to do, I did a little digging to see what underlying relationship there was between Dionysus and Apollo, aside from they both being figures in Greek mythology. I didn't do a great deal of research, and thus you won't get an essay, but I'll mention this one reference (there are more out there): Amongst others, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, in his The Birth Of Tragedy, made the contrast between Dionysus - the god of wine, intoxication - and Apollo - the god of the sun, music, poetry? both sons of Zeus. Therefore here, this contrast is given form musically? Oh yes, should also mention that Rush tackled this subject in "Cygnus X-1" (part one, on A Farewell To Kings) and "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" (on Hemispheres.

Percussion features in "Kujichagulia" - the title of which means, or refers to, self-determination, and is one of the seven days celebrated during Kwanzaa, the African-American holiday week of December 26 - January 1, first celebrated in 1966. There isn't, to me, anything inherently African in the rhythms; however, the chanting vocalizations do make that suggestion. However, more so the noodling bass and that crisp percussion seem assured and focused; a path is embarked upon and not wavered from.

"Essence Of A Noble Soul" is a relaxed, gentle, lyrical piece that layers acoustic and electric guitar, over hand percussion. A fat bass solo travels over this foundation more than a third of the way through, before a singing guitar solo takes over. Despite this, and most of the album's tracks, being all Foti the result is a dynamic piece. "A Bridge Between Time & Eternity," another more relaxed and open composition, starts as if we will get an atmospheric, synth-wash only piece, but soon we get earthy, warm acoustic classical guitar with salting of brushed percussion over gently rolling piano-like keys. There is tons of atmosphere, but like every track here, we never stay in just one place; the instrumental mix and arrangement keeps the movement going forward.

A tinkling piano races across acoustic, classical guitar and taut, ethnic percussion of "Ultradian Rhythms." It's another jazzy piece, that isn't at all sleepy, as the term "ultradian" implies (it refers to the sleep cycles). In fact, there are enough changes in pacing that you might just find it mimics the cycles of sleep itself, the tempo quickening just as you might in REM sleep (depending upon what you were dreaming of at the time? this music would induce dreams of racing, running)? Instead, what has a languid, drowsy feel is "Wan Wu Part I - Disciples Of Life" which moves us geographically to Asia with the sound of chimes -- or tubular bells, perhaps; it recalls by association, Mike Oldfield. Hand percussion and bass undulate beneath. In researching this reference, I am taken to Foti's composition notes at's Amapedia (in beta testing): "In Daoism, the concept of Dao (aka Tao) is regarded as the natural order of the Universe, unexplainable since it exceeds senses, thoughts, and imagination, from which all myriad creatures (wan-wu) are originated. Literally, 'Ten Thousand Things,' Wan-wu is used as a metaphor for all living things, or the whole of creation."

Finally, two tracks hitherto unmentioned: "Panta Rhei" a Middle-Eastern tango, though the title comes from a phrase by the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Esphesus, says Foti. The phrase: "panta rhei kai ouden menei," which translates as: "all things are in a state of flux and nothing is permanent." Oddly, although Rush is not musically represented on this album, the band is very much present as here I think of a lyric from "Tom Sawyer"? "He knows changes aren't permanent - but change is?" Which is probably significant of nothing other than a coincidence, as I doubt the concept or idea was Heraclitus' alone? or? well, I'm not suggesting that Peart and Foti were making the same reference? (and it may in fact be I'm reading too much into the Rush connection because there has been a Rush connection? if that makes any sense).

The other, in brief, although every bit as worth as the tracks that precede and succeed it, is "A Smile For Every Tear," Eastern-classical with fluttering classical guitar mixed with crisp tinkling piano to create a gentle, romantic atmosphere.

Foti has put together a rich and deep album that I feel, even after some 1140 words, I've only scratched the surface of. The instrumentation employed is far richer than the printed credits would reveal (which I've done my best to augment below using his Amapedia article). Foti is truly a multi-instrumentalist if all of those mentioned were more than just samples? An excellent release.

Given the album title's reference to "the world" (Latin for "globe of the earth") the map of the world on the back cover dates from 1650 and was drawn by cartographer Hendrik Hondius. You can find this map to view at Norman B. Leventhal Map Center (at the Boston Public Library)
Modes Of Consciousness: Part 1 - Dionysian Stream (4:21) / Kujichagulia (4:05) / Privilege Of The Strong (4:26) / Essence Of A Noble Soul (6:25) / Ultradian Rhythms (5:44) / A Bridge Between Time & Eternity (5:09) / Credo (4:12) / Wan Wu: Part 1 - Disciples of Life (5:20) / Wan Wu: Part II - Disciples Of Death (4:21) / A Brief Eclipse (4:17) / Vivir En Alegria (3:39) / Panta Rhei (4:55) / A Smile For Every Tear (3:54) / Modes Of Consciousness: Part II - Apollonian Stream (5:22)

Gino Foti - bass, MIDI bass, keyboards, loops, samples, African 'talking' drums (adondo, atumpan, dondo, gan gan), timbales (Cuban kettle drums/timpani), xylophone, berimbau, kalele drones, doumbeks, saghat, classical guitars, fretted and fretless bass guitar, acoustic piano, Latin percussion (congas, bongos, claves, and Cajun triangle), zills, glass bowls, ceramic bells, gourds, lom bak (Javanese hand drum), clappers, hand drums, cymbals, gongs, singing bells, shakers, scrapers, slap bass guitar, electric violin, riq, tar, def, synth strings...
Dave Kulju - guitar (1)
Chris Rossi - piano (10)

Orbis Terrarum (2006)
Sphere Of Influence (2006)
Bhavachakra (2006)
Vedic Mantras (2006)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: February 3rd 2008
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2442
Language: english


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