1. U-5 (7:13)
2. BB-2 (5:07)
3. Q-1 (7:39)
4. W-1A (3:21)
5. W-5 (7:28)
6. W-1B (2:19)
7. T-6 (4:55)
8. AA-5 (5:41)
9. Q-2 (7:19)
10. AA-4 (5:04)
Willie Oteri – guitars, live loops
Dave Laczko – trumpet, effects
Dino J.A. Deane – lap steel dulcimer, beat jockey
Scott Amendola – drums, percussion
Born in California, though currently based in the university town of Austin (Texas), guitarist and composer Willie Oteri is something that has become increasingly rare in this day and age – a professional musician. Although he may not be a household name for most readers of this blog, he has got as impressive a résumé as they come, with numerous high-profile collaborations under his belt (he has worked with the likes of Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto, Mike Keneally and Stu Hamm). His latest project, WD-41, was put together in 2009 by Oteri and trumpeter Dave Laczko, after Oteri came back from spending almost four years in the Italian town of Padova (home to one of the oldest universities in the Western world). Indeed, the album’s Italian-language title pays homage to Oteri’s own roots, as well as his love for the boot-shaped Mediterranean peninsula.
Unlike WD-41’s debut album, entirely performed by just Oteri and Laczko, Temi Per Cinema sees the participation of two guest musicians (as implied by the +2 added to the outfit’s name) – multi-instrumentalist Dino J.A. Deane (known for his collaborations with John Zorn and Jon Hassell) and drummer Scott Amendola. Their presence adds depth to compositions that are largely based on live loops, with Oteri and Laczko creating trippy, highly cinematic soundscapes, at times soothing, at others somewhat disquieting. Though the guitar, together with the trumpet, is the main driving force of the album, Temi Per Cinema can be said to be the polar opposite of those ‘guitar hero’ efforts who seem to be very popular nowadays, especially with the younger generations. Thankfully, there is no shredding involved here, nor any such vanity showcases: for Oteri, the guitar is a starting point for a variegated range of modes of expression, a means to an end rather than an end in itself.
Though not really alike sound-wise, I believe Temi Per Cinema might be successfully compared to two albums released earlier this year by another guitarist driven by a rather unconventional creative impulse – Seattle’s very own Dennis Rea. In particular, the album shares its wholly improvised (though far from haphazard) nature with Iron Kim Style’s self-titled debut – though the latter has a more ‘mainstream’ jazz-rock bent; while its meditative yet intense atmospheres bring to mind Rea’s View from Chicheng Precipice (reviewed elsewhere on this blog). Oteri and Rea are both artists whose passion for music shines throughout their work, both keen on exploring their instrument’s endless possibilities beyond a conventional rock approach.
Oddly enough, while undeniably anything but an easy, comfortable listen, Temi Per Cinema is not the kind of album that will fade in the background unless approached with the utmost concentration. On the contrary (probably on account of its essentially ‘soundtrack-y’ nature), its demanding, frequently angular musical content possesses an undefinable quality that seems to capture the listener’s attention. Apparently unstructured, yet never gratuitously chaotic, it takes elements from ambient, free-jazz, avant-garde and psychedelic/space rock and fuses them in a compelling though challenging mélange.
Running at a very sensible 52 minutes, Temi Per Cinema features ten numbers that, while sharing a similar mood and conception, are in no way carbon copies of each other – indeed, repeated listens will reveal peculiarities and otherwise hidden nuances. Interestingly, none of the tracks have been given conventional titles – a highly unusual choice, whose main aim is to encourage the listener’s own interpretation of the music by eliminating the images normally conjured by conventional titles. By rendering their compositions somehow impersonal, Oteri and Laczko try to promote a more active role on the part of the listener – in the words of Miles Davis, “Call it Anything”.
With track times ranging from 7 to 2 minutes, Temi Per Cinema lends itself equally well to being approached piecemeal and as an organic whole. Opener “U-5” presents a subtle yet clearly perceivable Eastern spicing amidst the moody, ambient-like waves of electronic effects punctuated by Laczko’s floating trumpet – a dense, multilayered track, with all the instruments blending and sparring at the same time. The eerie, intensely atmospheric “Q-1”, led by the mournful sound of the trumpet, brought to my mind images of the vast expanse of the sea, reinforced by Oteri’s low-key guitar work; while in the entrancing “W-5” the guitar takes centre stage, albeit in a slow, measured way, creating the perfect soundtrack for a vintage Gothic movie. On the other hand, other tracks (such as “BB-2” and “W-1B”) come across as distinctly free-form, and quite devoid of melody (at least intended in a conventional sense) – therefore much harder to swallow for the more conservative set.
Temi Per Cinema is, indeed, the kind of album that not every fan of progressive rock is bound to appreciate. While the actual ‘rock’ component is rather thin on the ground, at least in conventional terms, the lead role played by the trumpet may put off those who generally shun jazz. However, fans of King Crimson, Robert Fripp’s solo output (with or without Brian Eno), and all those bands (like, for instance, US prog veterans The Muffins) whose line-up and compositional approach somewhat diverge from the mainstream rock tradition, are likely to warm to this impressive effort, brought to us by an extremely talented, dedicated duo of musicians who clearly deserve more exposure.