Best known as half of star-gazing electronica duo Walls, Italian producer Alessio Natalizia has been plying a much rougher strain of sound for several years under his solo moniker Not Waving. Where Walls looked to krautrock and ambient for influences, Not Waving has a punkier aesthetic, borrowing the tunneling basslines of EBM and live-feel drumwork. This makes Powell’s Diagonal imprint a perfect home for Natalizia – the raucous sense of fun across Animals is Diagonal all over, but the colour and diversity he brings to this LP is all his own.
Natalizia’s background in rock and punk groups in Italy comes across in the loose drumwork on Animals, yet he wields his basslines as taut secondary rhythms which keep the pressure at a constant high. Many of these tracks toy with the interplay between these rhythms, which Natalizia daubs with an array of squealing acid lines, distorted vocals and horror movie effects.
Believe eases the listener in with a simple rhythm and a tense, carefully treated bassline which takes centre stage, equal parts EBM and italo disco. The album is shot through with these dancier cuts, such as the straightened cyber-funk of Face Attack, whose furious synths give way to a surprising no-wave vocal, or I Know I Know I Know, where the melodies grow ever more unhinged in sharp contrast to a disaffected Kraftwerkian voiceover.
Elsewhere Natalizia proves that he can adapt his sound to a range of styles and tempos. Tomorrow We Will Kill You is a bluesy murder ballad, all threatening guitar licks and crushing, slo-mo kicks. Presenza Immobile is creaky and off-kilter, like a locked groove from a horror soundtrack, while on Punch the drums are done away with entirely, leaving only a moody, yawning void of ambience.
Throughout Animals there’s a sense of decay. Natalizia’s sounds come from a baffling array of sources and they’re constantly threatened by distortion, or even completely falling apart. What’s even more punk is a general ‘don’t give a fuck’ confidence which means that elements like a sampled scream or a strange phonecall breakdown can find their way into fizzing lead single 24. The unexpectedness of all this makes Animals a very exciting listen – seemingly any element could be introduced (check the birdsong in Gutsy), and each of these may be subject to deterioration.
The tension, range and malevolent attitude of Animals marks this as Diagonal’s most striking album to date. Natalizia can seemingly dissolve any ingredient into his distinctive sound, which reaches its most surprising moment on closer They Cannot Be Replaced. Here the words of late psychiatrist Oliver Sacks echo over a soaring synth motif, discussing spirituality and Darwinism in Europe and America. It’s an oddly affecting coda, and a victory lap for Not Waving: even when he drops the horror, his bold attitude remains.