Written by Jack Andrew Cribb
To genuflect is to ‘Lower one’s body briefly by bending one knee to the ground, typically in worship or as a sign of respect.’
Initially I am confused as to why the Italian electro-pop artist Leo Baldi, or Leon Seti, chose to use this as the title for his debut album. Possibly as a sign of reverence to the power of emotion, this being a very emotionally-charged work? In conversation with Leon, he stated ‘the message of the album is very personal and private. I think it’s best if you try to make out of it what you will.’ This makes my job that little bit harder, but, a man who calls his own work ‘genuflection’ will realise the power of art, and how the only thing we can really garner from them are interpretations, rather than truths, and I bend the knee to that conclusion.
Genuflection opens with the powerful Flamebird, a song replete with somewhat harsh sounding synths that contrast with Leon’s tenor voice. It’s one of, if not the catchiest song on the record, and also hides a sense of anger and lament behind the relatively soft synth sounds. The next track Under, carries on with this theme, with lyrics like ‘I can drink the life out of you’. These lines are impressive, well-written, raunchy in places, and play well off the deep synth and bass. These first two tracks are pretty powerful openers to the album, and I think should be taken as a whole, rather than separate songs, as they cover the same emotions. ‘Flamebird and Under are tracks about anger and revenge.’ States Leon. ‘They are the first two tracks because chronologically that is what happened. I got angry, frustrated, and I overcame whatever was making me feel like shit. The raw sounds of the songs are meant to signify the crudeness of that stage’
Credit: Leon Seti
The eponymous track Genuflection comes in right in the middle of the album. Subdued synth chords play before the song becomes stripped back, basing itself around simple electronic beats, with Leon’s voice layered heavily. The layered vocals can become distracting at times, and you almost don’t know what to focus your hearing on. It comes across as Leon really let the throttle go in terms of crafting this song, but that puts it at danger of seeming a little contrived. However it does show off his singing ability, which comes across very well. On the song, Leon stated ‘Genuflection is a sarcastic song that has a double reading. It has two possible subjects but I think that is for the listener to establish. Sonically the track is extremely strange. It has a weird progression, and when I was recording it I remember just wanting to layer vocals until I couldn’t sing anymore, because I wanted to yell.’
The album itself gets more and more interesting sonically as it progresses, each track becoming a little more subtle, a little more intricate. Morning Frost is an instrumental track that for me, sonically, is the most interesting on the album. ‘It is a track about waking up and going out when it’s really cold and there’s no sounds around you. There are no vocals because it had to imitate the sound of silence if you will.’ Imitating the sound of silence is an interesting concept, and some may argue this track doesn’t sound like silence at all. Yet, it does sound like frost crackling underfoot, like shards of ice dancing as they fall from trees, like cold breezes rushing through valleys. Morning Frost is both that silence and isn’t, using the subject matter and building on it, subverting it, and creating something post-modern from something so natural.
Genuflection as a whole is interesting, it can sound both sweet and bitter simultaneously, and the layering of both the vocals and soundscapes that Leon creates comes across as both experimental, well-thought-out, and somewhat wild and mercurial. Parts that stand out to me particularly are the songs Morning Frost, Apathy, which has a lovely little melody to it that is playful and dark, and the interesting, almost tribal-sounding samples you can hear dotted about Genuflection, on songs like Somebody Looked For You, 6, and Raining, which goes against its name through its use of tropical melodies.
I think Leon’s strength lies in his subtlety. It was the more downtempo, calm tracks that hit the hardest for me on this work, whereas tracks like Flamebird come across as a little too aggressive. Still, the album is a good piece of art, written well, with much in terms of sonic experimentation. Even more impressive is the fact Leon wrote and produced this himself. If Genuflection says one thing as a debut album, it says that Leon shows great potential.