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“Vanishing Point.” A Theremin Concept Album

Photograph of Maurizio "ErMan" Mansueti playing a Moog Etherwave Pro theremin.
Maurizio “ErMan” Mansueti. (Photo by Vladimir Kabanov)

“Vanishing Point” is the title of a stunning new theremin concept album by Timeless Sonic Factory, a musical project by Italian electronic musician Maurizio “ErMan” Mansueti.

Since the 1990s, Mansueti has been the leader of the lounge band The Transistors, with two albums and various singles to their credit. The Transistors drew on the musical heritage of the Exotica genre, revising it in their own way. And it was just wandering in the vast sea of the Exotica genre that Mansueti came across the legendary Samuel Hoffman and was enchanted by the theremin. “Melodies of the future played in the past, classical sound but electronic,” he says. Since then, the theremin has become Mansueti’s primary instrument.

Besides his experience with the Transistors, Mansueti has conceived other musical projects such as “Utopia Research” (2009), through which he finds a new way of communicating his art, placing the listener in an electronic dimension characterized by a new code such as that introduced by new mobile technologies. And “Timeless Sonic Factory,” a vehicle of experimentation through which Mansueti creates contemporary music in which the theremin is the main instrument.

Under the moniker “Timeless Sonic Factory,” he has four albums to his credit: “Theremin The Way I Feel” (2009), “Carnival of Seduction” (2013), “Tribute to Ryuichi Sakamoto KOKORO” (2016), and the just-published “Vanishing Point.”

Timeless Sonic Factory’s “Vanishing Point” cover art.

With “Vanishing Point,” Mansueti has made a beautiful and intense theremin concept album. A set of songs, all linked by a common thread that guides us through a journey that is engaging and, at times, moving. Indeed, while the music speaks of the artist’s inner world, it also speaks of the listener and with the listener, touching deep chords of resonance and provoking a strong sense of identification.

And what Mansueti’s music leads us to undertake is the journey towards the vanishing point, that invisible point discovered, or rediscovered, by Filippo Brunelleschi in the fifteenth century, towards which two parallel lines drawn on a two-dimensional space converge to infinity, creating the illusion of a three-dimensional space. Except that, in this case, music takes the place of drawing, metaphorizing the concept of vanishing point to an emotional and spiritual dimension, outlining thoughts, stories, and emotions with musical notes. And more than creating the illusion of three-dimensional space, the music acts as a trigger for the unveiling of our multi-dimensional inner world. That psychic, spiritual, and emotional dimension of which we are normally only vaguely aware, taken as we are by daily life and by the imperatives of our Ego, but within which we fluctuate incessantly.

From the first track, “Vanishing Point,” which gives the album its title, the theremin takes center stage, starting a melancholy wandering along the geometric textures of synths and delay lines, which, like animated arabesques on the two sides of the stereophonic image, evoke an imaginary space. It is as if, while observing a 1980s computer graphics animation, we had been swallowed inside the CRT display, and the flickering of pixels and sprites, losing their crudeness, had become more real than real. And within this endless loop, we hear the theremin acting as the main character of this enacted journey without stereotyped attitudes. A few steps forward and then a pause, as if to linger to observe with amazement the surrounding environment. And then squinting in a vain attempt to focus on the invisible point of convergence. And then still forward towards a destination that will never be reached. The strings, which burst into the scene’s background about halfway through the piece, increase the soundscape’s pathos by emphasizing the emotional charge of this journey’s narration. The theremin, freely gliding from glissando to glissando and hopping from staccato to staccato over the clock’s precise pulse, seems to be the ideal narrator of the story.

If the opening track introduces us to the concept of Vanishing Point in its abstractness, so to speak, the following tracks decline the metaphor to specific situations that could belong to the life of each of us.

Blindfolded Eyes, for example, which with its contemplative tone, concerns the desire of an unattainable woman. It evokes a lover who fantasizes about his beloved and tries to transform his thought into an active agent in the real world. And in so doing, he tries to reach the evanescent object of his passion.

Or Written In Another Life, a Tai Chi dance written during the Covid-19 lockdown, which, against the backdrop of an obsessive rhythm, gives the idea of the quest for a perfect balance, a state of grace, sought after and glimpsed for brief moments within an inhospitable world.

Or, again, a journey on the subway described by The Tube, in which the tracks and lights inside the underground tunnel are transfigured into lines converging towards a dark point that represents the catharsis of our emotions.

In other tracks, the transcendent dimension seems to prevail. As in The Moon Under The Ocean, which opens with a quote from Prélude à l’après-Midi d’un faune but, instead of the faun, presents us with a siren who guides us into inaccessible depths. Here Mansueti seems to pay homage to his Exotica past. Or in Weightless, which seems to evoke the theosophic concept of kamaloka.

Overall, the melodic lines of the theremin and the mixed electronic and orchestral accompaniments combine to form a sonic and musical experience capable of giving extreme pleasure to the listener’s ears and spirit. It is a work that can be listened to several times with attention, always reserving surprises. And it also works very well as background music. In both cases, it gives the feeling of being wrapped in a melancholy but welcoming cocoon full of beauty, which catapults us into a dream dimension capable of triggering hidden areas of our psyche.

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