AVANTI is rich in anomalies and irregularities – much like our memories – which Cortini let creep into his compositions by recording live on a single synthesiser, the EMS Synthi AKS, without overdubs. “Just like the films, there are errors and mistakes in the music, some of which became the theme and some which are peculiar things that happen once or twice,” he says.
Delving back into his youth brought out some mixed emotions for Cortini. “There’s this melancholia that comes with memories of bygone days, whether they were great or not, they're gone and you can't go back to them,” he says. “That’s why I named the record AVANTI, it means ‘forward’ in Italian and that’s the only direction you can go.”
The album’s tracks evoke that feeling of nostalgia through the warmth of their instrumentation and samples from Cortini’s grandfather’s archive, which bookend each track. Take opener "Iniziare" which, with its undercurrent of bass and swelling string-like motifs, is like a sepia-tinged photograph brought to life – at once elegiac and uplifting. Or the wistful "Nonfare" that, with its fuzzy, organ-like tones veiled by noise, sounds like a faded memory. While on "Vincere", the lush layering of effervescent melodies with choral harmonies paints a picture of a carefree, sunlit scene from childhood, now painfully out of our reach.
AVANTI isn’t the first time Cortini has looked to the past for inspiration when making music. He emphasizes the importance of approaching recording with a childlike curiosity and sense of playfulness that is often lost as we grow older. “A lot of the instruments I use are, in effect, toys – they don’t come with any instructions so it feels like you’re a child, messing around with something,” he says. “I think that should be the ba-sis for any creative output, as an adult it’s easy to be cynical and self-questioning.”
Fittingly, Cortini started young, experimenting with a tape recorder that his mother gave him at the age of six. During his teenage years, he followed his father’s lead and took up the guitar, later traveling to the US to master the instrument with the aim of becoming a professional musician. But it wasn’t until he completed his studies, however, that he came to the realisation that he no longer wanted to be wedded to the guitar. Instead, he started dabbling with synthesizers and computers which offered a whole new world of possibilities.
It was around this time that Cortini landed a gig that would shape the next decade of his career. After impressing Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor at a series of auditions, Cortini joined the band’s touring line-up in 2005 and later contributed to the group’s 2008 album Ghosts I–IV and 2013’s Hesitation Marks. “I remember going over to Trent's studio for the first time and there was so much electronic gear everywhere. At that moment I knew this was where I belonged.” Cortini’s enduring love affair with synths was cemented not long after when he had the chance to play around with a Buchla 200e at a NIN video shoot. He was hooked then and there, going on to amass dozens of rare synthesisers over the years – “It’s nearly bankrupted me.”
Despite NIN’s busy touring schedule, Cortini found the time to release a trilogy of double-LPs, named Forse, as well as two albums, Sonno and Risveglio, both on Dominick Fernow’s Hospital Productions label. The latter two initially started life as sleep aids which
Cortini would play to himself while on tour. Only later were those makeshift lullabies fleshed out into ambient soundscapes of the borderlands between wakefulness and sleep.
On his follow-up AVANTI, Cortini has turned his attention to a different aspect of our inner lives – memory. The recordings that are sampled throughout the album offer us a deeply personal glimpse into Cortini’s childhood but they also have the effect of stir-ring our own recollections. “I wanted the recordings to facilitate this connection at an emotional level with the listener in the same way I feel connected to it personally,” he says. With AVANTI, Cortini has created a soundtrack not just for his own past but also for ours.
AVANTI track listing: