Salvatore Dellaria
Adam Sonderberg
Olivia Block: trumpet
Steven Hess: percussion
Jason Kahn: analogue synth
Ilja Komarov: electric bass
Tomas Korber: treatment
Brian Labycz: computer
Eric Lanzillotta: moog
Joseph Mills: electronics and devices
Jon Mueller: percussion and cassettes
Jason Soliday: open circuits
Jason Stein: bass clarinet
Brendan Walls: electronics
Christian Weber: contrabass

and/OAR is very pleased to present
Safety, the second release on the
either/OAR division and the third Dropp Ensemble release.

It's not long into this mysterious offering before it gives you the feeling of
standing in a dimly lit location with something hovering among the
shadows, while seeing occasional quick movements from the corners of
your eyes, leaving you wondering if your eyes are playing tricks on you.
Translate this feeling to sound and we have common enough instruments,
devices and processes, but hanging in a strange delicate balance, never
quite exposing their true identities. Such is the skill that Dellaria (now
purportedly retired from music) and Sonderberg possess. Whomever has
followed the history of Sonderberg from the earliest days of his Longbox
Recording imprint to the present, has hopefully noticed his increasing
mastery of oblique and abstract production with releases also from labels
such as Tonschacht, Cathnor, Crouton, Absurd and Twenty Hertz, plus his
work with other projects such as Haptic and Civil War.

Background in brief: In 2003 Dellaria/Sonderberg founded, and co-direct
Dropp Ensemble (pronounced "drope" - Swedish for 'drip feed') which
consists of an international grouping of musicians and technicians that
work together in person or through the mail. The materials are pooled,
and undergo extensive production and editing by the duo.

catalog number: either/2
title: Safety
format: CD
status: sold out
THE WATCHFUL EAR  (March 2009)
Discs still continue to arrive here and pile up on the desk. One much
anticipated release landed here today and got played straight away,
namely the new release by Dropp Ensemble on the and/OAR offshoot
label either/OAR entitled Safety. Dropp Ensemble are a large group made
up of continually changing muscians but always including the core of Adam
Sonderberg and Salvatore Dellaria. Their first release, The Empire Builders
was recorded back in 2003 and released on Sonderberg’s own Longbox
label. In 2005 a 7″ single followed and now Safety is the third release
from the project.

I anticipated this release so much because I really love The Empire
Builders CD. That one really slipped out under the radar (as many
Longbox releases sadly did) and has never really garnered much attention
but those people that know the disc invariably speak highly of it. It was
originally recorded as music for a theatrical performance, and is a
percussion heavy, slow rumbling album with a dark, morose beauty to it.

Five years on back in 2007 Safety was recorded by a new set of musicians,
with some of the musicians intact for some of the tracks, but also plenty
more names added. The full roster on this release consists of Dellaria,
Sonderberg, Olivia Block, Steven Hess, Jason Kahn, Ilja Komarov, Tomas
Korber, Brian Labycz, Eric Lanzillotta, Joseph Clayton Mills, Jon Meuller,
Jason Stein, Jason Soliday, Brendan Walls and Christian Weber. Only
Dellaria and Sonderberg appear on all four tracks.
I am not certain as I have yet to ask any of the musicians involved, but I
suspect that to some degree the music on these pieces was composed
and assembled apart from the recordings themselves, with the final pieces
we hear on the disc the end result of this assemblage process.

The music inhabits a similar place as The Empire Builders did, slow, sullen
landscapes of booming percussion and electronic and acoustic drones and
details. After just a couple of listens it has really grabbed me again. The
album is only half an hour long and I’m left wishing each of the tracks was
longer as all contain a progression through a wealth of detail that just
seems to end too soon. If you just left Safety playing in the background it
might easily just slip past without making much impact, but careful
listening reveals a depth that betrays the careful thought that has gone
into the placement of sounds here. Quite sumptuously gorgeous stuff.

Early this morning I played the Dropp Ensemble disc through twice more,
this time at volume. Such a great disc if you ask me, just beautifully
composed music. I heard from Adam Sonderberg this morning and he told
me that indeed the music was pieced together using recorded parts made
all around the world, with only Adam and Salvatore Dellaria privvy to the
final product before the disc was released. I just think its a superbly
balanced recording, with the placement and weighting of its individual
parts on a par with a well written string quartet. So good. Last year
Sonderberg and Dellaria undertook a project that lasted (I think) eighteen
weeks posting a piece of music as an MP3 file each week at this site. I
haven’t listened to much of the material there yet myself, but the little
bits I’ve heard are quite different to their work as Dropp Ensemble. I’ll try
and listen sometime soon.  
(Richard Pinnell)
JUST OUTSIDE  (March 2009)
Dropp broods. The Adam Sonderberg/Salvatore Dellaria-centered
ensemble, here augmented with thirteen other musicians (full personnel
listed here on four cuts with group sizes of three, six, eight and eight,
tends toward dense, dark continuos containing layer upon layer of rich
sound and they do that in spades here. Assembled by the pair from, I'm
guessing, any number of performances, they manage to construct
absolutely cohesive, convincing works; the four tracks totaling only a bit
over a 1/2 hour feel like movements in a mini-symphony. The inclusion of
instruments like bass clarinet and organ, which often hold long tones, is
very moving, recalling some Gavin Bryars pieces from back in his prime.
Really benefits from being played loud, exposing all the booming
undercurrents; one of the fine points here, as in much of their work, is the
sonic balance between the throbbing and the pointillistic or gritty. An
excellent release, get it.
(Brian Olewnick)
As with other projects led by Adam Sonderberg, ie Haptic, Dropp Ensemble
(pronounced “drope”) allows for the inclusion of kindred musicians without
the logistical or financial burdens that come with session music. Since
2003, Sonderberg and Salvatore Dellaria have been making music with
numerous artists by way of mail and data transfer, with the duo finalizing
the work at home in Chicago. Safety, the latest of their Dropp Ensemble
initiatives (and the last? Dellaria has reportedly retired semi-
permanently), was released early this year on the new either/OAR imprint
as Dale Lloyd’s (and/OAR) venture into a supplementary robust
experimental catalog. On hand for Safety’s four tracks are musicians from
everywhere, including Olivia Block, Jason Kahn, Christian Weber, Steven
Hess, Jason Stein, Jason Soliday, Eric Lanzillotta, Tomas Korber, Ilja
Komarov, Jon Mueller, Brian Labycz, and Brendan Walls. The roster,
evenly balanced with sound artists and experimentalists, doesn’t feature
as a full unit, but in two octet tracks, and a trio and sextet apiece. Those
who’ve heard the most recent Haptic release are familiar with Sonderberg’s
fondness for the low end, and there are considerable segments here with
rumbling undertones from bass instrumentation. “Inlet” is one of those
tracks, a true teaser at <2 minutes, but one of the more beautifully
"composed"-sounding pieces in its passing and perhaps coincidental call
to Ligeti. Given the conditions, the participants made their contributions
without signals or eye contact, with Sonderberg and Dellaria tasked to
unravel and meld sketch ideas into something that sounds quite natural.
What a challenge a project like this must be -- at what point can the final
cut be decided upon? The engineering is uniformly excellent, save for a
moment or two of speaker buzz in the first track, which may well be my
equipment, not theirs. On the whole, Safety is wonderfully coherent with
easy-on-the-ears segments that come in adequately spaced doses.
(Al Jones)
Had this come out some 20 years ago, the Dropp Ensemble would have
only been able to pull this off by the slow process of tape exchanges
through the post, in other word: mail art. But through FTP and hefty
upload sites, the principle authors / engineers for the Dropp Ensemble can
be a bit more nimble and not have to wait for the mailman to deliver that
tape from halfway 'round the world. Those two farflung protagonists in the
project are Salvatore Dellaria and Adam Sonderberg. The former, we're not
all that familiar with his work although he's stated that he's retired from
the realm of sound art; and the latter has produced a handful of
exceptional tactile-minded drone records under his own name and in the
ensemble Haptic. The two had managed to rope together a world class
collection of experimental musicians: avant-percussionist Jon Muller,
former Anomalous Records bossman Eric Lanzillotta, feedback drone
specialist Jason Kahn, the concrete / field recordist Olivia Block, one-time
Andrew Chalk collaborator Brendan Walls, prepared guitarist Thomas
Korber, and seven others. For such a huge cast of characters, each with
their own particular take on the drone, the composition, the noise, the
sound, whatever, Dellaria and Sonderberg had proven to be deft not only
in coalescing all of these sounds into an exceptional composition but also
coaxing sympathetic sounds from all of the contributors. Heavy
subharmonic plods and scraping gestures open the album gradually
harmonizing into a thrumming arc of sustained rumblings that bellow with
the toxicity and pressurization of deep sea vents, accentuated by an
agitated motorik clicktrack. Glistening tones emerge out of controlled
feedback, and softened textures undulate in what sound like sand pushed
around a surface to allude to wind, tidal flow, or any number of
hypnotizing forms of white noise. Muted drones from what we're guessing
is Olivia Block's trumpet elegantly wrap around some of the found object
manipulation to offer somber melodic interludes to these already
impressive compositions. If this seems not all dissimilar to the
non-Jewelled Antler work of Loren Chasse or field recording manipulation
of Tarab and Eric La Casa, those are pretty apt references. And
considering how much we love all of those artists, "Safety" certainly gets a
thumbs up here at Aquarius.
Every week for 15 weeks starting in December 2007, Adam Sonderberg --
best known as one-third of Haptic -- and Salvatore Dellaria posted a new
piece on their web site, creating a series of experimental sketches as part
of a project named "Untitled_Ongoing." Sonderberg and Dellaria, who've
worked together in various contexts since 1998, hoped to rework and
develop the material for an eventual album, but heard as a collection the
pieces can stand on their own -- the MP3 files remain available at their

Many of the track titles simply describe instrumentation ("Snare Drum,"
"Piano"), while others reference a musical approach ("Musique Concrete,"
"Indeterminacy"). You can certainly identify specific sounds here and there
-- guitar-amp noise, metallic rustling, bowed percussion, urban field
recordings -- but the work revolves around abstract texture and gesture.
Most of the pieces range in duration from two to five minutes, and
manage to convey a rewarding sense of development in that brief time.

Those experiments weren't used on the recently released
(either/OAR), the superb second album by the Dropp Ensemble, a studio
collective with only Sonderberg and Dellaria as steady members ("Dropp"
is pronounced "drope," and means "drip feed" in Swedish). But in the four
new pieces here, you can hear where they might've been going with them.
The album includes contributions from an international cast of
experimentalists (Olivia Block, Christian Weber, Tomas Korber, Jason
Kahn), who mostly sent sound files via e-mail for Sonderberg and Dellaria
to process and adapt.

Compared with the duo pieces, the Dropp Ensemble material is infinitely
more elaborate and elusive. Much of Sonderberg's music puts great
emphasis on resonant, rumbling low end, and these beautifully billowing,
fluid works are no exception. Sometimes you can make out what's clearly
an instrument, like Weber's arco double-bass scrapes on the brief opener,
"Inlet," but most of the time the various components are too slippery to
indentify--just tones, washes, and flutters. Close listening reveals a wealth
of patiently shifting detail--the way rhythmic fluctuations in long tones
change pulse, the exquisite layering of disparate colors, the aural friction
created by the pairing of oppositional sounds. It's a minimalist gem.
(Peter Margasak)
Chicago based sound artists Salvatore Dellaria and Adam Sonderberg
have been working together since 1998, producing a small but distinctive
body of austere electroacoustic composition, much of it released on
Sonderberg's now defunct Longbox imprint. Their most ambitious project
to date is Dropp Ensemble, a virtual big band featuring musicians with
whom the pair have collaborated over the years. That 'Dropp' is
pronounced 'drope', which is the Swedish for 'drip-feed', and is an
appropriate description of the slow, patient process by which Sonderberg
and his mysterious (retired?) playing partner distill and refine
contributions from the members of their ensemble before inserting them
into carefully preconceived formal plans.
Safety is only the third Dropp
Ensemble outing in six years, following their debut "The Empire Builders"
(Longbox, 2003) and the "Ingen Tid" 7" (Tonschacht, 2005). What sets
this music apart from the common or garden electroacoustic improvisation
- whose po-faced puffs, fizzles and hisses are becoming increasingly
boring and predictable - is simply that it's not improvised at all. "We're
composers, not improvisers," Sonderberg is at pains to stress. Well, yes
and no: this is clearly composition, with every tiny stone of the four dark
grey brooding soundscapes meticulously polished and set with a jeweller's
precision - but many of the members of Sonderberg and Dellaria's
13-piece ensemble, most of whom sent their contributions by (e)mail, are
improvisers, raning from Sonderberg's playing partners in Haptic, Steve
Hess and Joseph Clayton Mills, to Swiss lowercasers Jason Kahn, Tomas
Korber and Christian Weber. Not that their individual contributions are
easy to spot among the open circuit crackle, analogue synthesizer glow,
draughty trumpet (courtesy of Olivia Block), and rumbling percussion (Jon
Mueller). The album is aptly named, though: even the most accomplished
sets of semi-composed improvised music - Polwechsel is an obvious
precursor and influence - contain a hint of danger, but one senses that
every detail of this 32 minute masterpiece is calibrated with chilling,
straightjacketed precision.
(Dan Warburton)
Over the 2006/2007 biennium Salvatore “Sam” Dellaria and Adam
Sonderberg gathered and assembled recordings from a literal who’s who
of inquisitive improvisers and composers, mostly from the advanced areas
of EAI (names include Olivia Block, Jason Kahn, Tomas Korber, Eric
Lanzillotta, Jon Mueller, Brendan Walls, Christian Weber to quote the most
“famous”). The results are now available in 32 minutes for which
adjectives like “stunning”, “mesmeric” and “anguishing” weigh equally.

In a milieu of partially tarnished harmonic contents, the prevailing
impression is that there’s no way out of an unending obscurity. Sounds
apparently coming from the viscera of the instruments take possession of
the immediate environment straight away, causing a sense of uneasiness
enhanced by the absolute lack of resolutions or, worse still for someone,
sections to memorize. Everywhere – except perhaps the short opening
track “Inlet” - a sort of gradual deterioration of the mood constitutes a
prominent compositional trait, providing a necessary dose of slight
precariousness which prevents the music to become just a flabby
superimposition of disjointed elements.

Every detail appears carefully planned and executed, and the splendid
stability between electronic and acoustic factors, connecting softness (say,
a rhythmic low-frequency pulse as heard at the end of “Everywhere Present
And Nowhere Visible”) and ruggedness (Jon Mueller’s instantly
recognizable stridencies, for example), pushes aural exhausts and
concrete threats in the same direction, a grey sky anticipating rainstorms
that never begin. The overall scent of this record is therefore an organic
one: we felt both swallowed up and authorized to pensive movement,
needing to walk across the room while listening, hoarse murmurs and
percussive parsimony marvellously mixing with the tinkling bells of the
cows pasturing around the house, the abnormal pulsation of particular
sound waves determining a sensible modification of the pressure on the

This meshing of mixed-media experimentalism and unvarnished
ineluctability is a winning procedure throughout, attributing to Safety – the
title a bizarre counter altar to such a non-serene, if introspective offering –
a psychological influence which is typical of an album to remember for
years to come.  
(Massimo Ricci)
From the earliest examples of musique concrète, practitioners have started
from instrumental rather than environmental sounds, taking samples from
sympathetic performers as the origin for their electroacoustic works.
Although environmental and field recordings become more prevalent in
recent years, in the mid-1990s composers like John Wall re-initiated the
use of instrumental fragments. Wall's earliest work originates almost
entirely with short, nearly recognizable snippets of commercial recordings,
as if his compositions sought a performance practice that the diverse set
of sampled musicians could not produce together. Partially because his
methods inadvertently lumped him with plunderphonics, his more recent
releases have avoided pre-released material, or at least made it
completely unrecognizable and unacknowledged, in favor of live recordings
which he then manipulates in the studio.

Wall retained connections with the British free improvisation community,
so his musician sources perform on piano, double bass, and trumpet.
Adam Sonderberg (also a member of Haptic) and Salvatore Dellaria's
project the Dropp Ensemble also works with musician sources, but the
credits on their recent album
Safety also include open circuits, oscillator,
treatments — obscure and elliptical sounds from the outset. Their stable
of fifteen contributors (plus six more musicians credited for "Research and
Development") includes noted improvisers Jason Kahn, Tomas Korber and
Christian Weber. For the various and sundry electronics and synthesizers,
one is hard pressed to identify any individual contribution on the four
tracks that comprise this set. But one of the unifying factors is how
Sonderberg and Dellaria incorporate acoustic instruments, often leaving
them identifiable, anchors that focus the listeners attention amidst the
background noise. The authors are reticent about their methods as far as
I can find, but the album notes that the contributions were recorded
around the globe, and they confirmed to Richard Pinnell that the musical
fragments were assembled in their studio, solely by the duo.

The four pieces pace themselves together extremely well, starting a
trajectory from the amuse-bouche
Inlet leading to the slow pace that
Everywhere Present and Nowhere Visible. Levels of activity bubble up
to the surface, each level with its own rhythm and frequency level, and
each has its own story to tell. There are three fairly distinct sections, and it
almost sounds like the same source with different treatments underpins
each one. What sounded like fast drum beats gets progressively slower
and drier, until the last silence leads to
Vernacular Rooms. Here, the
frequency spectrum is much wider, a clattering, rich sound with hidden
layers of static. As Weber's bass was briefly identifiable on
Inlet, so Jason
Stein's bass clarinet becomes a focal point guiding the listener through
the abstract rattling. The clarinet's long, sustained tones provide a slow
moving harmony at the piece's core, but the outer layers are very active
throughout. The noise and static suddenly become background, revealing
the previously hidden gentle murmuring.

The suite's conclusion,
Forget Collapse, starts with a thunderclap, a wide
hissing environment like the rain, and high pitched sine waves from
Everywhere Present circle the sound field. Individual percussion strokes on
bells, sticks and drums, appear like beacons in the mist, adding an
urgency mitigated by the occasional lingering gong or cymbal stroke. A
transitional hi-hat stroke extends endlessly to an extended white noise
with individual elements and frequencies gradually isolating themselves.
Slowly evolving into a metallic and noisy drone, a brief window shows the
quiet white noise and tape hiss that has been subliminally present all
along, and to which the suite will slowly ebb.

Besides the integrating presence of acoustic instruments, I hear these
pieces as a suite because of sound elements that recur across the set. As
shimmering high sine waves in the finale recall the earlier suggestive ones
Vernacular Rooms, a few persistent sounds provide a foundation for the
countless sonic variations and unique, abstract gestures. The relatively
short length, just over a half hour, gives Safety an opportunity to be heard
as a whole, more than a collection of four disparate pieces, a rare
example of an electroacoustic suite that really hangs together.
Safety is
available directly from and/OAR as well as creative distributors worldwide.
(Caleb Deupree)