JoyCut @Teatro Manzoni, Bologna, Italy, September 16, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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JoyCut @ Teatro Manzoni, Bologna, Italy, September 16, 2023,

Sep 24, 2023 Web Exclusive
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Italy’s JoyCut is an interesting conundrum, an act that ticks so many of the obvious boxes to be a huge international concern but, in most places, they remain a distinctly cult operation. Since 2007, they have released four, increasingly accomplished, albums and an opera, plus shared the stage with the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Arcade Fire and Editors. The Cure’s Robert Smith even invited them to perform at his Meltdown festival in 2018, a set which was a complete triumph.

Their kinetic fusion of classicist synth experiments, darkwave and post-rock connected in profound ways at that show, and my subsequent interview with member Pasquale Pezzillo (who is joined by the duel drumming of Gael Califano and Matilde Benvenuti) highlighted an act deeply connected to political activitism (namely in ecological issues) and one for which academic thought is as much a part of the mix as musical skill, of which they have an abundance. So, what gives?

Understanding all this, it makes sense that a contingent of international press found themselves on the streets of Bologna, home to Europe’s oldest functioning university and a historic wonder oozing ideas and stories, before a special concert from JoyCut to present their music on home turf in collaboration with the Orchestra of the Municipal Theater of Bologna in the ornate Teatro Manzoni.

The packed theatre, was attended by a mix of classical music fans intrigued by what the deal was and fans of Joycut there to see how the orchestral additions could add to the work of a band they love.

From the off, the performance set out its thought-provoking stall, as a pre-recorded spoken word extract by actor Fabio Pappacena taken from Gunther Anders essay “The Obsolescence of Humankind” played for several minutes. In Italian, despite feeling the gravitas, I didn’t understand a word, but the text argues that “a gap has developed between humanity’s technologically enhanced capacity to create and destroy, and our ability to imagine that destruction.”

That intersection between progress and destruction is a large part of JoyCut’s persona, and this was fed directly via a large video screen throughout. Glitched negatives of urban sprawl, images of catastrophic flooding, strange framings of animals and nature all added to the overall messaging of a unique concert. JoyCut are quiet revolutionaries though, with no brash statements just ideas to interpret and explore provided in a purely sonic and visual format.

On record, opener “Siberia [BeforeTheFlood]_” was a desolate, static-driven slice of melancholy, permeated by reflective keys and a huge synth-lift and immediately the orchestra’s inclusion added something to this elevation, transforming the piece into something packed with endless optimism. These complimentary but, ultimately transformative, additions from the 50 piece orchestra always felt like a genuine collaboration and as part of the original JoyCut vision, something that is a testament to both the band and the conductor Valentino Corvino’s work together.

The traditional three-piece of JoyCut was also augmented throughout with the addition of Italian, Berlin-based electronic composer and Hush Hush record alumni Julian Zyklus, violinist Rodrigo D’Erasmo, accomplished rock musician Vince Pastano and singer-songwriter and actor Giò Sada. All in all, this performance is JoyCut (special edition) and every addition meticulously adds to the band’s already intricate sound - a testament to the swell of admiration they have in their home country to be able to pull together such an ensemble to perform their tunes.

This wasn’t just a “JoyCut” performance, in fact, set up behind the orchestra, the band were not entirely visible to the whole crowd (certainly not to us in the front few rows), they were part of a bigger whole, and clearly wanted to present the orchestra players as the “special” aspect of this show.

The first section contained a reordered, run-through of 2022’s accomplished TheBluWave album, where the band stepped further into neo-classical and post-techno composition to explore ecological destruction. The spaciousness of these tracks created obvious gaps where the orchestral could fit. On tracks like “Darwin_” the strings and brass took things to a new realm while the dual persuasive assault of the bands two drummers (one adding primal tribal beats and the other percussive nuances) was enthralling.

JoyCut proved their music (and the latest material in particular) harks back to a time when “electronic music” was the sole preserve of experimental artists and explorers of sound, where the possibilities of electronics presented in anything but the most subtle ways was considered out there and opaque. This first section harnessed acts like Tangerine Dream, Fuck Buttons, Brian Eno in full ambient flow and, with the lifting strings, Sigur Ros. JoyCut expressed the vastness of life and the subtle nuances to be found within it with enveloping noise.

These tunes invoke the ‘tone poems’ provided by Phillip Glass for the epic koyaanisqatsi documentary, sounds that invoke the movement and exploration of ‘chaotic life’ just like the cult movie does.

The first section ended with “Plato|SHIRAKABA_” the latest album’s closing tune, its goth guitar chimes and plaintive vocals created a segway to “GTRC” off the second record Ghost Trees Where to Disappear a distinctly more “rock” album with visions of The Cure and darkwave. Emotional vocals echoed “Good times are coming”, offset by mournful electronics and stings.

At this point the orchestra stood down and JoyCut lurched into full post rock mode on “Deus” proving that as a standalone act they still pack a huge punch.

“Darkstar” from third album PiecesOfUsWereLeftOnTheGround from 2013 (nothing appears from the band’s 2007 debut The Very Strange Take of Mr Man), took the same aesthetic into the digital realm, a transition piece between all of Joycut’s aural personas, it was an elevating moment.

Their biggest tune to date “Domino” drew the largest reaction of satisfaction from the crowd and is a high, tribal, piano-driven sub-techno wonder perfectly lifted by the strings and brass, “Wireless” is absolutely huge, a static-filled anthem and the tune that should have probably ended the night. But we are treated to two unfamiliar tunes in “TREASURE_” and “TheCure_” and an obvious nod to JoyCut’s famous fans which is a downbeat sigh of a tune, taking the more contemplative motifs of the Cure that ends of a soft note.

After some of the huge tracks in the previous 40 minutes, this did feel like a strange choice of ending but, then, this was a night of defying expectations and changing the rules of the band’s established music.

All in all, this was a special, one-off event and a shame that no one outside of that room will ever get to witness it again (especially anyone in the UK or US) but it was a testament to how JoyCut deserve to be a well known concern here. Their talent is obvious, their tunes epic and they are just waiting for people to catch up.

























Pasquale Pezzillo

Gael Califano

Matilde Benvenuti


Julian Zyklus

Rodrigo D’Erasmo

Vince Pastano

Giò Sada


Valentino Corvino

Orchestra of the Municipal Theater of Bologna

Spoken words by Fabio Pappacena from Gunther Anders’ “The Obsolescence of Humankind”


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