Black, Synthetic & Ritual-Wave // An Interview with CIRQUE D’ESS

WL//WH Interview Cirque d’Ess

Vibrant and electrifying Italian duo CIRQUE D’ESS, comprised of Martina Bufalini aka “Miriam” (vocals, weird objects and fx) & Valerio Girmenia aka “Ryo” (guitars, synths, samplers and reverbs), roam in and around obscure darkwave edges, flirting with E.B.M., electroclash, industrial, electro, trip-hop and techno, in their adrenaline-filled and gripping debut album “Black Synthetic And Dense”, out now via Cold Transmission Music, they dubbed it “Ritual-Wave”…We try to understand something more, nicely chatting to those directly involved, Miriam & Ryo.

  • How did you first meet, and then decide to start a music project in the first place? What’s the origin of the name?
– We met at first on Facebook.
Ryo: I was looking for a female singer, I tried to play with some singers but every time there was something missing or too different from my idea. Then I asked Miriam to have a trial with me.
Miriam: I was coming out really sad from my previous music project and then looking for something else in music.
Our name is an acronym of something we don’t remember anymore 🙂
  • What type of music were you exposed to as teenagers? Do you remember when and where you started to get passionate about music and your early artistic inspirations?
M: Mainly grunge, new wave, darkwave, noise, alternative rock, punk from Italy and the rest of the world. I was passionate about music since my first years. Mom & Dad always listened t a lot of music. Dad is a singer since he was a teenager and he worked for an FM Radio in Pisa.
R: Basically metal, grunge and psychedelic rock. My father is a jazz/blues/symphonic music passion and a hi-fi nerd 🙂 I approached music when I was a kid with an old keyboard I got for Christmas.
  • Music-wise I know Pisa mainly for a historical record distributor/shop from some years ago, now sadly closed…maybe the echoes of the 80s ‘Swinging Florence’ are too far in every sense for you…How do you fit into your city’s music scene, if any? How has your place of origin been important to your music? Any bands to highlight?

There’s almost no scene here. As you mentioned, Florence has a few venues but very few. We played more in Florence and Emilia Romagna than here in Pisa. Local bands we love: Velvet Vega

  • Let’s talk about the Italian dark/goth /alternative music scene in general. What’s your take about it? 

Italy has many cool bands around dark/electronic/post/goth wave, and we are very happy about this! 

  • Do you feel like outsiders or part of it?

As we said just last night to a special friend/supporter talking about our debut album “If you want goth, you won’t have it. If you want electro, you won’t have it again 🙂 if you want dark or gazing you won’t have them. You’ll get them all always and never at the same time”.

  • Which are the Italian artists/bands you feel closest to?

We don’t feel close to any band in particular, maybe because we try to fuse together many styles from many bands, but we really love Velvet Vega and European Ghost due to the friendship with both and to their cool music!

  • Are there any minor, obscure, unexpected bands/artists who were just as important to your artistic development as your sound and attitude?
M: Diamanda Galas, Einstürzende Neubauten, Lene Lovich, Nina Hagen, Minimal Compact, Zola Jesus, PJ Harvey, NYC No-Wave scene (Lydia Lunch and more).
R: Burzum and North European black/doom/pagan music, NY and Detroit Techno scene, some EBM German bands.
  • Were there any pivotal records or live concerts that changed indelibly your perception of music?
M: First 4 Patty Smith‘s records and one of 3 Smith’s live gigs when I was 22, “Banana” by Velvet Underground, all records by Talking Heads and David Byrne, Suicide album (1977) by Suicide, Sonic Youth live at Ostia Antica (Rome) in particular.
R: I saw too many concerts. Almost metal, every time it was amazing. One in particular: Pantera. A BLAST.
“Somewhere in time” by Iron Maiden: it was the first change, “Superunknown” by Soundgarden, “Astronotus” by Karma (IT), “Peoples Temple” by Tying Tiffany
We both love British trip-hop by Massive Attack and Portishead. And of course Joy Division.
  • Your sound channels a wide range of music styles including Darkwave, Synthwave, Shoegaze, EBM and Techno, ‘tanta carne al fuoco’ we use to say (many irons in the fire)…

Not all at the same time 🙂 Every song has its own story and sound.

  • Obsessive lyrical repetitions and intense, emotional vocalizations radiate from your sound.  Seems like writing and singing have a sort of cathartic power for you…

M: You’re right, I’m happy you caught the centre. Maybe someone else too will do 🙂 It’s something vibrating that starts from the stomach and goes up taking a narrative and sound shape.

  • Slice of life narratives, current social issues, and metaphysical references are woven through your lyrics. How do you choose which stories to write about? Is writing a collaborative effort?
– Most of our lyrics come out from our life and some others are more evocative.
M: We choose together the stories but I am the only one writing lyrics.
  • Your album has been recorded in times of pandemics. What did it mean for you to work in such a particular and difficult period?

The album was recorded across the pre-pandemics and the pandemics period, last recordings weren’t so easy to do due to restrictions. At first, it was really sad: we were planning about new gigs and new opportunities to play live the incoming album. Despite the pandemics we quickly decided anyway to go ahead, no matter the pandemics: we just wanted to go out.

  • How does your track usually come about? Is it an instinctive affair, or do you instead ponder about it? Are you focused on the idea of conveying an overall mood or vibe? 
M: I’m always instinctive and extemporary. My vocal lines often start from weird and bizarre vocalizations. Ryo tells me every time that I am rounded and he is squared 🙂
R: I like to play with a vibe approach, starting from rough improvisations and make them sound better time after time. I “must” have to be squared for this 🙂
  • Your album sounds so impressive in its own right – dark, dense, sexy and danceable. Rhythmic intensity is one of your distinctive flairs… What shaped the narrative as you wrote the tracks and compiled the album? Take us through the genesis of it.

 We wanted to play with ancient and ancestral atmospheres with vocals, guitars and synths, chained sometimes with modern electronic sounds and “club” rhythms, and some other times with textures and layers

  • Let’s talk about your guest remix by our beloved S Y Z Y G Y X

 It was easy and fun. We asked our label to keep us in contact with the guys (S Y Z Y G Y X). So we talked a little about the remix and it was ready in a few time. It was great at first listen! Btw the very first time we listened to it was in late July 2020 at the beach in Livorno (IT) with Mrs & Mr Cold Transmission aka Suzy & Andreas 🙂 We have chosen the duo because of some “hard electro” and dancy attitudes they have for us. And we met kind and nice people also 🙂

  • I saw some live pictures, unfortunately not too recent. What your favourite part of playing live? Do you play any cover versions?

 Every part, from travelling to meet new people and friends, clubbing after the show, drink, talk and smile. We only hate to clear up the stage. And trash food/drinks too!

Only for live shows, we played “Venus in Furs” (Velvet Underground) and “Many Kisses” (Krisma), but in a total revisited version, more re-make than cover. There’s something about our YouTube channel.

  • How did your association with Cold Transmission come about?

In May 2020 we decided to go out unsigned with our first video single “Hole-Frog”. It was definitely a good idea. We had part of an album in our hands, many labels out there and some contacts here and there in Europe, but when we knew the CT guys it was easy, fast and great. Although some labels choose to follow a “straight” 80s sound style, we had no problems presenting our music to CT, even if not properly aligned with the 80s style of darkwave, coldwave etc. CT guys are open-minded with music genres.

  • I know it’s hard, but try to name 3 favourite records of all the time
M: “Fear of music”, Talking Heads
R: “The Wall”, Pink Floyd
– Cirque d’Ess: “Unknown pleasures”, Joy Division
  • To our welcome guests the final words
We are really happy about our new album “Black Synthetic And Dense”. It sounds exactly as we wanted, with many influences, sometimes very unexpected and distant from the dark scene, some other times very into it. It was a deep dive into creativity for us and we hope people will get excited to listen to it as we are.
We say “it’s Ritualwave” due to sounds and intentions/attitudes and we’ll work on it some more next releases!

CIRQUE D’ESS debut album “Black Synthetic And Dense” is out now, CD and Digital, via Cold Transmission Music.

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