Canva6 – Ten Minutes to Midnight (Presto!? Records, 2022)

An outstanding debut from a new name, the abstract electronic album Ten Minutes to Midnight is billed in its brief press release as “a masterwork of subtraction.” There wasn’t much else context for this description, so I tried to go straight to the source.

The cover of Ten Minutes to Midnight. (Source: Presto!? Records)

You won’t find much information about who Canva6 is through a Google search; I had to email the label, Presto!? Records, who patched me through to the man himself. It turns out Canva6 is the sound project of Marco Farina, a 27-year-old from Rome who moved to Milan to study sound engineering but stayed after becoming enamoured with the city’s cultural scene. Music production is a priority for him. “When I don’t make music I try to find some ‘fast-jobs,’” he explains. “It’s not something stable, but it’s enough to pay bills, take bae out for dinner, and buy instruments. There are some people who say that I should get a normal, stabler job, but this modality is the only one that can make the creation of music possible. Making music can be a slow process sometimes, I need a lot of time.”

Farina recalls being nine or ten years old when he discovered his friend’s brother’s copy of FL Studio, a computer program used to produce electronic music. He and his friend used this software to create his first-ever “techno track” at which point he became hooked. It was in his early twenties that he discovered experimental music, which was liberating; he was no longer restricted to the conventions of dance music. “When you do experimental music, you are free, there are no rules, it’s just to create something that sounds good to my ears,” he tells me.

He explains that his record is billed as a “masterwork of subtraction” because it is the product of a process of decluttering his music. (Though I get the sense this turn of phrase was the work of his label, not him.) “I started to feel this need for precision in my work when I started to subtract elements,” he explains. “Before this practice, the message that I wanted was not clear… It was messy, it wasn’t clear where the tracks were going, so I said ‘OK, let’s stop going around it, let’s get to the point.’”

Conceptually, Ten Minutes is one of a growing line of pandemic records, what Farina calls “something a bit tragic.” He recounts crafting this album in the early days of lockdown while Italy was getting hit exceptionally hard. At the time, he travelled to his girlfriend’s place with just a laptop and keyboard. While stuck indoors, he developed a strict routine: he would go to bed early, wake up at 6 am, then sit down to produce tracks on his computer and take piano lessons online until roughly noon. (His girlfriend, a night owl, would join him later in the day.) After the first lockdown wound down, he took the resulting tracks back to his home studio to test them on a proper sound system but found the work “really bad” when subject to scrutiny. He diagnosed the problem as the fact that the record was produced using computer software alone; after saving up some cash, he was eventually able to purchase some used audio equipment, then used this to produce a superior product. What brought Ten Minutes to its final synthesis was Lorenzo Senni, the founder of Presto!? Records and an electronic producer who Farina considers an inspiration. Farina had been accepted to the label after submitting a demo, with the proviso that it required a lot of work – with Senni’s guidance, the final Canva6 record emerged, and was came out on the label.

Farina’s workstation at his girlfriend’s apartment, where he developed much of Ten Minutes to Midnight during the early pandemic lockdown. (Source: Marco Farina)

A record forged during the early days of the pandemic, Ten Minutes is, according to Farina, a combination of memory and futility. “I rewound a lot of my life and my experiences. This caused an intense need to escape… but where? I didn’t know what was outside those days!” Take, for example, “Still Cry at High Speed,” a track which is built upon a massive chord progression played using the “chorus” feature on a Roland Juno 60, an analog synthesizer produced between 1982 to 1984. (Farina explains that this synth produces “a huge spreading sound like a hug from your father when you’re a very tiny child,” before apologizing for the simile.) This sound was augmented by superimposed sounds concocted experimentally in a computer program called Massive, reflecting Ten Minutes’ amalgam of analog and digital methodology.

Farina’s home studio, where Ten Minutes to Midnight was finished. (Source: Marco Farina)

“Still Cry at High Speed,” like many of the tracks on this record, is both pretty and momentous, yet interestingly Farina describes it as the product of a sense of restlessness. Reflecting on the lockdown period in which this track was composed, he explains the track’s inspiration: “In a static time, I want to run, I want to drive fast, I want to be on a rollercoaster, I want to feel the fear when it’s taking me up, but when it’s taking me down I would cry for that feeling of speed, I still cry with that. It’s what I needed at the time… and of course every day of my life.”

Ten Minutes’ artwork is a photograph taken by Lorenzo Senni, the Presto!? Records owner. It is a photograph of a popular Milan palace in San Bibila; pictured is a clock at, you guessed it, ten minutes to midnight. Though it’s nighttime, there is a brightly lit banner depicting a sunset above an ocean, part of an advertisement out front of the palace. Farina was drawn to the juxtaposition between the dimly lit city and the bright sunset, comparing it to Blade Runner. “When I saw it I just said, ‘OK, let’s use this please. I don’t want to see the others.’ I think it was identical to my feelings in those days stuck at home.”

The locale pictured in the Ten Minutes to Midnight cover, seen at daytime. (Source: Marco Farina)