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Much of Raglani's technique hearkens back to the knob-turning experiments of early sound synthesis — it wasn't until recently that he began using keyboard-based synths. Instead, much of his early work consisted of modulated sound waves fed through a modern, portable approximation of those monstrous analog machines from the '60s. In fact, the mere use of the word "synthesizer" obscures the type of music Raglani releases — listeners are hard-pressed to identify the sources of the sounds on his songs, and there are few traces of the spaced-out bloops and beeps that are normally associated with the instrument. A record such as Of Sirens Born feels a million miles away from the dark-wave synth rock of the Faint or the proggy keyboard odysseys of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Which raises a salient question: Just what kind of music does Raglani create? It's too involved to be ambient, too beat-deprived to be anywhere near what passes for electronic music and too coherent to be considered experimental.
"I just use 'noise' as a blanket term," Raglani says. Of course, all genre tags have their drawbacks, and "noise" is one of the more troublesome, whether it's a term of affection or derision. Raglani recognizes its shortcoming. "Of Sirens Born isn't really 'noise' either. If you talk to someone who is a fucking noise purist, they wouldn't consider that in the noise canon whatsoever." When asked why not, Raglani responds, "Because it's too tonal, it has too much melody, it references music too much. I think most noise purists are more concerned with anti-music, or music that totally stays away from any kind of scale or tonality."
It may be oversimplifying Raglani's musical goals to say that he's working to bridge the gap between noise and pop music, but a love of loud, vibrant, three-chord rock & roll still rings inside him. As a high school skate-punk growing up in St. Charles, he practically wore out his cassette copies of the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols and U2's The Unforgettable Fire. In fact, the combination of those two albums — the raw but focused punk of the Pistols and U2's increasingly lush post-punk landscapes — provides a good glimpse into Raglani's sometime brusque, sometimes bucolic movements.
"I cannot escape the pop-music bug — my version of pop music being different from anybody else's," he says with a laugh. His fascination with nostalgia and the collective subconscious overlaps with his abandonment of pop-music forms, but the permanence of melody and harmony — what Abraham Lincoln termed "the mystic chords of memory" — is driving Raglani's future projects.
"I want to make an album that you can listen to over and over again," he says of an upcoming release for Kranky, which, given the theft, is most likely a long way off. "A lot of noise stuff that I have is not like that. You listen to it, and then you process it, and then you feel like you get the information out of it over two or three listens. So I've started to try to figure out in my head how you can make an album like The White Album, but in this frame of reference."
So Raglani is at a crossroads: His first record on a wide-release label gets good press (Pitchfork gave Of Sirens Born a favorable 7.4 out of 10), but now, he has to start over from scratch with new and/or different gear. While he plans on continuing to record and perform live, Raglani admits to being at a loss as to taking the next step. He's working to straighten out his finances and to begin rebuilding his arsenal, though he's already been helped by his friends and fans (a benefit party at White Flag Projects netted about $900). Given his wealth of ideas and crafty sound manipulations, it's likely that Raglani will once again begin making noise — or whatever you want to call it — sooner rather than later.
"I want people to find out who I am, and I want to be able to make a living off music," he says. "I'm interested in pop music [as well as noise], and I want to make this bastard album that is the crossover between the two. We'll see if I'll be able to do it or not."
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