Økapi: Opera Riparata

By Eric Blendermann

The mind tends to wander when you’re listening to Opera Riparata, the new album (out now on Illegal Art) from Italian turntablist and sample cutup artist Økapi (aka Filippo Paolini), and that may be the point.  Opera Riparata consists of 40 nameless tracks, each 1:11 in length and running one into the next, so the listener has few points of reference along the way – the effect is like getting lost in the Met – so very much to see, frequently interesting and beautiful, quite a pleasant afternoon, but where the hell are we?

In fact, the connection with visual art, especially collage, is intentional: Økapi has subtitled the album “Tribute to Bruno Munari,” referring to a 20th century Italian artist, designer, and researcher in creativity who was renowned for deconstructing the visual and musical elements of classic opera, then reassembling the components in new and different ways, in front of live audiences.  Similarly, Opera Riparata combines themes from opera scores with atmospheric electronics and beats, as well as found-sound samples and every squelch and glitch in the closet.

Økapi further messes with your mind by sharing credit on the album with the Aldo Kapi Orchestra, his collaborators on the 2010 double album Love Him – except they weren’t.  As on the previous set, the Orchestra and its namesake are elaborate fabrications of Paolini’s creation, complete with detailed and entertaining backstory – not only is Økapi an artist in the musical realm, he’s dabbling in fiction and magical thinking as well.

Oh, did I wander off-topic again?  See what I mean?  Back to the subject at hand, the music: Opera Riparata is an enjoyable listen, clearly affectionate and playful, complex and thoughtful, intended as an appreciation of opera and its influence – narrative, dramatic – on many styles of music and performance, even hundreds of years later.  Other albums by the likes of Malcolm McLaren and the Art of Noise have crossed classical and operatic themes with the sounds and beats of the day, but those releases were made up of individual tracks that could stand alone.  Økapi’s approach is to remove distracting identifiers (like titles or modern, recognizable samples) from the tracks, leaving the listener free to float along with their off-kilter, glitchy ambience, unencumbered by expectations or assumptions, just feeling.

Opera Riparata is the work of a clever thinker and deft assembler – Økapi shares those characteristics with Bruno Munari – and you’ll be glad there’s still room in this world for curious and well-made music like this.

Rating: 7.5/10