Album Review: Luca Ciut - Seventeen Million Lonely Angels (2013 LP)

Seventeen Million Lonely Angels

Luca Ciut takes influence from composers like Yann Tiersen, Michael Nyman and Gavin Briars, yet he sits closer to Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm, on the post-classical side of art-music. The Italian’s debut album, Seventeen Million Lonely Angels, captures the intersection between the musician’s human experience and the soundscape of Los Angeles, the supposed ‘city of angels’. This semi-biographical work doesn’t emphasise the notes Ciut plays on the piano, but the spaces between them, and wraps his sound in a desolate yet graceful aesthetic.

“A very lonely place for a very lonely existence." That’s how Ciut frames this album. This loneliness coats his music, and is only sporadically countered by spurts of hope. The emptiness is never overwhelming though, it’s balanced so that you become easily immersed and emotionally involved. Its minimal simplicity is inviting and accessible, yet its sound doesn’t grow a great deal, and Ciut still seems like he’s only half-way out of his musical shell.

Seventeen Million Lonely Angels was originally conceived as a collection of solo piano pieces, yet ended up being backed by strings, horns and the odd vocal line. Given, Ciut’s vocals and lyrics (on Things Are Getting Better and Back To Life) are mediocre, they are warm and honest. There’s little instrumental experimentation, but real-world loops and recordings are added to give his sound a backdrop - one based on the sounds of LA. The hum of the city is almost ubiquitous, adding to the sense of slow immersion.

Where Ciut’s talents shine through is in the music itself, and more precisely, its style. Even with only a debut album in place, his musical personality is clear and apparent: slow, graceful, articulate, interestingly shy and quite expressive when it needs to be. Are Dreams Overvalued begins in sombre, minimal piano, but builds with strings and a bass, reaching a redeeming climax only to fall back to nothingness, then rise again. It’s a song which embodies the fluctuating emotions of a person in new surroundings, and it’s perhaps Ciut’s most beautiful and filmic piece, encapsulating all elements of his style.

Even though Seventeen Million Lonely Angels is quite a melancholic album, it is refreshingly honest, and withdrawn only to a degree which makes you intrigued, and therefore emotionally indebted to its hidden emotionality. Ciut still has room to grow as a composer, but this debut is impressive. His minimal, quiet style isn’t instantly immersive, yet it becomes increasingly so as you collect more and more of its minor, more interesting details.

Review Score: 6.8 out of 10.

Seventeen Million Lonely Angels by Luca Ciut is available October 10.