“Mutus Liber” (No Problema Tapes)

The Philosopher’s Stone. Many have yearned for it, as its possession would surely entail untold riches for its owner. It could even extend life. Some may have fleetingly been in its presence. I have. How do you think I’m still alive after all these centuries? You should have seen the Middle Ages. Absolute nightmare.

That’s where the Mutus Liber comes in. You can imagine how someone would try anything, desperately, to harness the power of something like the Philosopher’s Stone. Lord Voldemort sure tried. The Mutus Liber, published in 1677 in La Rochelle, France, purports to be a guidebook on manufacturing the Philosopher’s Stone via alchemical means. Take it from me, from experience, that this book knows its stuff.

Anyway, batcrap mysticism aside, Giulio Aldinucci (Siena) and Moon Ra (Florence) represent two of Italy’s most exciting sound artists working within the experimental and found-sound idiom. What they’ve done on their respective sides of Mutus Liber, their split cassette on Santiago (Chile)’s No Problema Tapes, is take the concept of the cryptic tome and applied it to their sound design. Meaning, they’ve concocted, via literal alchemy (right?), music that turns metals into gold and grants eternal life. Meaning also, if I keep listening, I don’t have to keep drinking this awful stuff that I make from the Philosopher’s Stone. (You get that I’m implying I have a Philosopher’s Stone in my garage, right?)

Aldinucci’s side focuses on the wonder and excitement of creation and discovery. There’s a palpable joy in his four tracks as the surprise of scientific breakthrough occurs after a lengthy period of experimentation.  Moon Ra’s on a different track, though – she realizes that playing with alchemy is like playing god, and in doing so they’ve gone too far, unleashed something too powerful and uncontrollable. The playing of Mutus Liber is like opening up Pandora’s Box, and there’s no way to get that lid back on. Her tense pieces belie this sense of “Oh no, what have we done?”

Which is where I come in. Somebody’s gotta clean up this mess, and since I’ve got a little bit of experience in this area, I’ll see what I can do. But don’t let all this stop you from grabbing yourself a copy of this tape – I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you.

--Ryan Masteller