Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI)’ Category

TRACKLISTING:
Il Trittico del Tempo Che Fu:
 1. L’Orologio (5:43)
2. La Persistenza della Memoria (3:11)
3. Somatizzando l’Altare Di Fuoco (7:46)
4. L’Ipostasi (3:19)
Presa di Coscienza del Presente:
 5. Al Torneo (3:32)
6. L’Arrivo dell’Orco – Fuga (4:34)
7. Nuvole e Luce (2:23)
8. Ritorno al… (Reprise) (1:47)
9. Salamandra: Regina di Psiche e di Saggezza (7:40)
Quiete e Redenzione del Domani:
 10. Nel Crepuscolo (3:49)
11. La Notte (4:05)
12. L’Alba del Nuovo Giorno (6:01)
13. This Is What We Got: The Flute Song (7:31)

LINEUP:
Diego Petrini – drums, organ, piano, mellotron, percussion, vocals
Eva Morelli – flute, alto, soprano and tenor sax
Federico Caprai – bass guitar, vocals
Antonello De Cesare – lead guitar, backing vocals
Simone Morelli – rhythm guitar
Maria Giulia Carnevalini – lead and backing vocals

Hailing from the beautiful central Italian region of Umbria, Ornithos (Greek for “bird”) features three members of Il Bacio della Medusa, one of the most interesting Italian progressive rock bands of  the past few years. However, Ornithos predates Il Bacio della Medusa by a few years, and was originally created by multi-instrumentalist Diego Petrini and bassist Federico Caprai in 1999. The two musicians were joined by Eva Morelli in 2007, and subsequently by the three remaining members, vocalist Maria Giulia Carnevalini and guitarists Antonello De Cesare and Simone Morelli La Trasfigurazione, their debut album, was completed in 2011 but released in the early months of 2012. The cover artwork by Federico Caprai features the band’s symbol, the ibis, which is a reference not only to their name, but also to Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, music and time.

For a debut album, La Trasfigurazione is a very ambitious endeavour, bearing witness to the many years of work and dedication behind it. With 13 relatively short tracks arranged in three chapters, it is a concept that hinges on a man’s spiritual journey through the past, the present and the future. True to the Italian progressive tradition, it is also boasts dramatic flair, gorgeous yet occasionally intense melodies, and plenty of variety to keep the listener on their toes. However, unlike many albums that share similar features, the concept is mainly conveyed through music rather than singing. Indeed, the majority of the tracks are instrumental, showcasing the amazing technical skill of the individual members, as well as very tight band dynamics and a remarkable ability in developing a narration without the use of too many words.

Eclecticism is the name of the game on La Trasfigurazione, an album that honours the golden age of Italian prog while at the same time searching for new avenues of expression. The lush  symphonic apparatus of mellotron and other keyboards is beefed up by a twin-guitar approach more typical of classic rock than prog, and the prominent role of Eva Morelli’s saxes lends a sleek, jazzy allure to the sound. While the synergy between flute and guitar, hovering between gentleness and aggression, inevitably evokes Jethro Tull (a big influence on many RPI bands, both old and new), Ornithos’ sound rests on a tightly woven web that relies on the contribution of each instrument, finely detailed yet part of a whole. The vocals, on the other hand, almost take a back seat, although the contrast between Diego Petrini’s low-pitched, almost gloomy delivery (sharply different from the quasi-operatic style favoured by many Italian prog singers) and Maria Giulia Carnevalini’s soaring, blues-tinged tones deserves to be further exploited in the band’s future outings.

The sounds of tolling bells and a ticking clock lead into “L’Orologio”, whose brisk, dance-like pace introduces the album, illustrating the band’s modus operandi. The strong hard rock component of Ornithos’ sound emerges at the end, with a driving guitar solo propelled by high-energy drumming and supported by sax and organ. Petrini’s distinctive vocals make their entrance in the low-key “La Persistenza della Memoria”, and lend a somewhat ominous flavour to the first half of “Somatizzando l’Altare di Fuoco”, a cinematic number that blends echoes of Morricone’s iconic spaghetti-western soundtracks with a vintage hard-rock vibe and an unexpected, laid-back jazzy ending. The nostalgic tango of “L’Ipostasi” wraps up the first chapter.

Introduced by the upbeat “Al Torneo”, the second chapter develops in eclectic fashion with the blaring sax – almost in free-jazz mode – of “L’Arrivo dell’Orco – Fuga”; then it takes a more mellow turn in the Canterbury-tinged “Nuvole e Luce”, which introduces Maria Giulia Carnevalini’s soulful voice paralleled by melodic flute – before plunging deep into hard rock territory with the raging Hammond organ of “Ritorno al… (Reprise)”. “Salamandra: Regina di Psiche e di Saggezza”, probably the album’s climactic point, begins in subdued, almost mournful fashion, then soon unfolds into a dramatic, riff-laden jazz-meets-hard-rock workout that brings to mind the likes of Colosseum, Banco and even The Doors. The third chapter opens with the blues-rock suggestions of “Nel Crepuscolo”, while “La Notte” ’s slow-paced, riff-laden heaviness conjures echoes of Black Sabbath, compounded by a wild, distorted guitar solo and aggressive, almost harsh flute. Then the serene textures of “L’Alba del Nuovo Giorno”, with a lovely sax solo that made me think of the airy, jazz-tinged elegance of Delirium’s magnificent comeback album Il Nome del Vento, bring the main body of the album to a close. In fact, while the jazzy “This Is What We Got: The Flute Song” is undoubtedly a beautiful piece of music – showcasing Antonello De Cesare’s guitar skills in a great solo backed by organ and sax – it feels like an afterthought of sorts, especially on account of the English-language lyrics, which detract from the uniquely Italian character of the rest of the album.

As is the case with most Italian progressive rock, La Trasfigurazione can be somewhat of an acquired taste, and definitely not for those who favour a minimalistic approach. Musically speaking, even if the album might command the controversial “retro” tag, there is also a sense of modernity in the band’s omnivorous approach which pushes Ornithos’sound into the 21st century. True, the album occasionally comes across as a tad overambitious when it wants to cram too many ideas into a limited running time of 56 minutes. However, this is a band that possesses talent in spades, and La Trasfigurazione will make a strong impression on lovers of everything RPI – as well as providing a fine complement to Il Bacio della Medusa’s newly released third album, Deus Lo Vult.

Links:
http://www.ornithos.it/

http://www.myspace.com/ornithos

https://www.facebook.com/ornithosfreeformusic

Read Full Post »

TRACKLISTING:
1. Prologue (7:00)
2. Part I (12:25)
3. Part II (9:09)
4. Part III (16:52)
5. Part IV (13:30)

LINEUP:
Fabio Zuffanti – bass guitar, Moog Taurus bass pedals, cymbals, tambourine
Luca Scherani – Mellotron, Minimoog, Korg Sigma, Hammond organ, grand piano, Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric piano, accordion, mandolin
Maurizio Di Tollo- drums
Matteo Nahum – electric, acoustic and classical guitars
Silvia Trabucco – violin
Joanne Roan – flute
Edmondo Romano – bagpipe, soprano sax, tin whistle, bodhran

With:
Alessandro Corvaglia –  lead vocals (Parts I and IV)
Carlo Carnevali – recitation, vocals (Part I)
Davide Merletto – lead vocals (Part II)
Marco Dogliotti –  lead vocals (Part III)
Simona Angioloni – lead vocals (Part IV)

In spite of its name (an homage to Ingmar Bergman’s 1978 film, Autumn Sonata in the English translation, which marked Ingrid Bergman’s final appearance on the big screen), Höstsonaten -one of the many projects in which bassist/composer Fabio Zuffanti (known to US prog fans for his work with Finisterre and La Maschera di Cera) is involved – hails from the Italian port city of Genoa. Its self-titled recording debut came in 1996, followed in 1998 by Mirrorgames, and then by the four albums comprising the Seasoncycles (Springsong, Winterthrough, Autumsymphony and Summereve), released between 2002 and 2011. Though Höstsonaten is a solo project rather than a conventional band, every one of its albums has been conceived as a group effort with the contribution of a number of talented Italian musicians, some of them members of Zuffanti’s other projects (such as Finisterre, La Maschera di Cera and Aries).

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s iconic 9-part poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (published in 1798 as part of the ground-breaking first edition of  Lyrical Ballads), is one of those literary works that seem to have been created expressly to be put to music, especially in a progressive rock setting. A riveting tale of guilt, atonement and redemption set largely at sea, it epitomizes Romanticism with its heady blend of Christianity, pantheism and Gothic horror (masterfully captured by 19th-century illustrator Gustave Doré, one of whose etchings is reproduced at the end of the CD booklet). Most rock fans will be familiar with Iron Maiden’s stunning, 13-minute rendition that was included on their fifth album, 1984’s Powerslave. Indeed, Iron Maiden’s epic (by many considered a full-fledged example of progressive rock) was the original inspiration for Zuffanti’s own interpretation of Coleridge’s poem – which first appeared in Höstsonaten’s first two albums (as Part I and Part II). However, Zuffanti was not satisfied with the results, and decided to expand his vision and present the poem in its entirety (while the Iron Maiden song condensed Coleridge’s story, quoting the poet’s words only briefly), even if split between two albums, with Chapter Two’s release planned for 2013.

The ambitious scope of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (as well as its respected literary source) will remind dedicated prog fans of the the numerous Colossus Project CD sets released by Musea Records in the past decade or so. Zuffanti himself has frequently collaborated with those endeavours, and graphic artist/drummer Davide Guidoni (one of Colossus Project’s mainstays) has contributed his accomplished artwork to the disc. Coleridge’s original text is interpreted by four different singers plus a reciting voice. As good as the vocal performances are, however, the music is the real strength of the album, effectively conveying the dramatic development of the story – from the joyful departure of the ship to the culmination of the tragedy caused by the Mariner’s wanton killing of the albatross, the “bird of good omen” that steers the ship through a deadly ice field.

The instrumental “Prologue” sets the scene with ominously tolling bells and the haunting sound of the waves, then builds up to a rich tapestry of keyboards (manned by Luca Scherani of La Coscienza di Zeno) laced with violin and Matteo Nahum’s stately, melodic guitar. Though the Genesis influence hovers on the whole album, Zuffanti also introduces heavier elements to bolster the work’s quintessentially dramatic nature. Part I (with vocals by La Maschera di Cera’s Alessandro Corvaglia, assisted by long-time Zuffanti collaborator Carlo Carnevali) is the most consistently symphonic episode, juxtaposing lush keyboard textures, choral mellotron and melodic guitar with the lyrical touch of the violin and the pastoral sound of the flute, and then gradually increasing the intensity quotient, leading to the mournful, melancholy mood  that accompanies the killing of the albatross.  After a deceptively subdued opening, Part II quickly builds up to a powerful climax, with roaring Hammond organ and synth slashes complementing Davide Merletto’s vocals, while some sax inserts add interest, and the eerie, rarefied sound effects at the end aptly convey the plight of the ship becalmed in the middle of an empty ocean.

Part III (at 16 minutes the longest track on the album) marks a definite change of pace, often veering into prog-metal territory and bringing to mind the melodic yet powerful style of bands such as Symphony X. Marco Dogliotto’s clear, assertive tenor (reminiscent of a less histrionic James LaBrie) navigates the shifts in the narrative with confidence and flair, while Silvia Trabucco’s violin alternately soothes and roars, sparring with guitar and organ in almost aggressive fashion. The slow, inexorable approach of the ghost ship is rendered in a chillingly understated way; then the music gains momentum once again to describe the death of the ship’s crew. Piercing bagpipes at the opening of Part IV convey the plight of the Mariner, alone on a ship with the corpses of his mates, whose staring eyes curse him. Corvaglia’s vocals blend with Simona Angioloni’s pure soprano, and the folksy suggestions are reinforced by the use of typical Celtic instruments such as the tin whistle and the bodhran, as well as the accordion, which perfectly complement the wistful, romantic note of the violin. Then, grandiose mellotron and powerful riffs, propelled by Maurizio Di Tollo’s imperious drumming, lead to the climactic moment of the Mariner’s redemption.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Chapter One keeps to a restrained running time of about 58 minutes, and I have to applaud Zuffanti’s choice of splitting such an ambitious endeavor in two parts, rather than  releasing a double CD that would have probably been indicted as overly pretentious. Displaying all the symphonic splendour of the golden age of prog, with a tantalizing sprinkling of folk and jazz influences and occasional forays into metal territory, the album manages nevertheless to sound modern (though obviously not “innovative”), avoiding the unabashedly retro stance of some highly praised releases of the past couple of years. Moreover, the lasting appeal of its literary source removes that whiff of cheesiness that often accompanies such ambitious productions. Highly recommended to fans of classic symphonic prog, with particular regard to the Italian school, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Chapter One is a very accomplished effort, and a loving homage to one of the milestones of English-language literature.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/hostsonaten

http://www.zuffantiprojects.com/

Read Full Post »

TRACKLISTING:
Studio:
1. Crescendo (8:51)
2. Sequenza Circolare (2:41)
3. La Giostra (7:27)
4. Non Chiudere a Chiave le Stelle (3:41)

Live (Asti, Teatro Alfieri, 1977):
5. Non Chiudere a Chiave le Stelle [coda] (1:02)
6. Crescendo (4:31)
7. Vendesi Saggezza (7:48)

LINEUP:
Studio album:
Leonardo Sasso – vocals
Luciano Boero – bass guitar, acoustic guitar
Oscar Mazzoglio – Hammond B3 organ, Mellotron M 400, Yamaha Motif XS6, Roland V-Combo VR-760, Korg X50
Giorgio Gardino – drums, percussion
Max Brignolo – electric guitar
Maurizio Muha – piano, minimoog, Mellotron M 400

Live album:
Leonardo Sasso – vocals
Luciano Boero – bass guitar
Ezio Vevey – guitar
Oscar Mazzoglio – Hammond organ, keyboards, minimoog
Giorgio Gardino – drums, vibraphone |
Michele Conta – piano, keyboards
Alberto Gaviglio – flute, guitar

Locanda Delle Fate’s fairytale-like name stems from a rather unromantic place – a brothel in their home town of Asti, in north-western Italy (well-known to wine lovers for its fabulous sparkling dessert wine). Originally a seven-piece, the band got together in the early Seventies to play covers of the legendary English prog acts, then moved on to writing their own material. Their first demo attracted the attention of the high-profile record label Phonogram, and their debut album, Forse le Lucciole Non Si Amano Più was released in the summer of 1977. Unfortunately the days of prog’s widespread commercial success were numbered, with the punk and disco movements already in full swing. Disappointed by the lack of response to the album, Locanda Delle Fate disbanded shortly afterwards; their partial reunion in 1999  for the pop-oriented Homo Homini Lupus was also short-lived.

In spite of being plagued by bad timing, in later years Locanda Delle Fate and their 1977 album have become a cult object of sorts for fans of classic Seventies prog, especially those more oriented towards a lush, romantic sound steeped in the Italian tradition as well as in the symphonic stylings of early Genesis. Indeed, they have often been tagged as the Italian answer to Genesis, and those who prefer the edgier side of the Italian prog scene tend to dismiss them as overly sweet and melodic. However, it cannot be denied that Locanda Delle Fate are more than just a bunch of Genesis wannabes: besides their obvious talent as musicians and composers, they can also boast of the magnificent vocals of Leonardo Sasso (who did not participate in the 1999 reunion).

Locanda delle Fate got together once again in 2010, taking full advantage of the much-touted prog revival, and the success that eluded them the first time around seems to have finally headed their way. The release of The Missing Fireflies at the beginning of 2012 presents their loyal fans with some previously unreleased material, including some original 1977 live recordings. Thanks to Marcello Marinone of AltrOck Productions and his father Davide (who had been the sound engineer on Forse Le Lucciole…), the “missing fireflies” have finally seen the light of day;  the original live tapes have been painstakingly cleaned up, and the proofs for the cover artwork of the 1977 album have kindly been put at the band’s disposal by artist Biagio Cairone. The stylishly packaged album is enhanced by Paolo Ske Botta’s graphics and classy photography; while AltrOck stalwart Udi Koomran has lent his expertise to the mastering of the finished product.

For obvious reasons, The Missing Fireflies… will be seen more as a collectors’ item than a genuine new release. The four studio tracks, however, reveal the strength of Locanda Delle Fate’s current line-up, which includes most of its founding members. Only one of those tracks, “Non Chiudere a Chiave le Stelle”, appeared on the band’s debut album, though  the keyboard-heavy “Crescendo” (also present in a shorter live version) and “La Giostra” also date back from their early days. The only completely new track is the 2-minute piano bravura piece “Sequenza Circolare”, composed and interpreted by keyboardist Maurizio Muha, which introduces the stunning “La Giostra” – a gorgeously melodic composition with tightly-woven instrumental parts complementing Sasso’s warm, smooth vocals, melding Genesis influences (particularly evident in Max Brignolo’s airy, stately guitar work) with Italian flair.

The live tracks amount to less than half of the album – which, at around 35 minutes, is already quite short for today’s standards. In spite of the less than stellar sound quality, they allow the band’s collective talent to shine. In  the exhilarating version of “Vendesi Saggezza”, Sasso’s passionate vocal performance brings to mind Francesco Di Giacomo (to whom he has often been compared), while powerful, Banco-like keyboard parts blend with a pastoral feel in true Genesis style.

All in all, The Missing Fireflies will be a worthwhile investment for dedicated followers of the band and fans of the original RPI scene, while newcomers might want to try Forse Le Lucciole Non Si Amano Più before taking the plunge. In any case, the release of the album, together with the success of Locanda Delle Fate’s recent live outings (at the time of writing, they have just returned from Japan, where they appeared at a festival in Tokyo together with other historic Italian prog bands), bodes well for the future of the new incarnation of the band. US prog fans will have the unique opportunity to see them at Farfest, which is scheduled to take place on October 4-7, 2012, at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware.

Links:
http://www.locandadellefate.com/

http://production.altrock.it/prod2.asp?lang=ita_&id=125&id2=176

Read Full Post »

TRACKLISTING:
1. Nella Pietra e Nel Vento (5:10)
2. Silenzi (5:00)
3. Il Santo (4:04)
4. La Cosa Più Bella (4:00)
5. Un Grande Giardino (3:20)
6. Sette Passi (4:36)
7. C’è Una Vita (4:27)
8. Tra il Bene e il Male (4:11)
9. Dio Lo Sa (3:37)
10. Il Sutra del Cuore (3:14)

LINEUP:
Aldo Tagliapietra – vocals, bass, bass pedals
Aligi Pasqualetto – piano, minimoog, keyboards
Andrea De Nardi – Hammond organ, keyboards
Matteo Ballarin – electric and acoustic guitars
Manuel Smaniotto – drums, percussion

With:
Claudio Galieti – bass (8)

At the end of 2009, the news that legendary bassist/vocalist Aldo Tagliapietra – one of the most immediately recognizable voices of the original prog scene – had left Le Orme after over 40 years together caused widespread consternation among the fans of the iconic Italian band. The subsequent legal hassles related to the use of the band name added a sour note to the ending of such a long-standing, successful partnership. However, neither the remaining members of Le Orme nor Tagliapietra himself have let this unpleasant set of circumstances have a negative impact on their career. Le Orme’s 2011 album, La Via della Seta (recorded with former Metamorfosi vocalist Jimmy Spitaleri replacing Tagliapietra) got a very positive reception. On the other hand, Tagliapietra reactivated his collaboration with former Le Orme keyboardist Toni Pagliuca, as well as guitarist Tolo Marton (who appeared on Le Orme’s 1975 album Smogmagica), for a series of sold-out performances following their appearance at the first edition of the festival ProgExhibition in 2010, with violinist David Cross (of King Crimson fame) as a special guest. In May 2011 Tagliapietra released a double CD, Unplugged, featuring acoustic versions of Le Orme classics as well as his own compositions.

Besides the above-mentioned activity, after his split from Le Orme Tagliapietra had been steadily working at his fifth solo album, eagerly awaited by his many fans. The album, titled Nella Pietra e Nel Vento, and released at the very beginning of 2012, is a summation of his artistic and personal experiences of the past few years, and marks a new stage in the artist’s career. It also sees his renewed collaboration with English artist Paul Whitehead, the author of legendary album covers such as Genesis’ Trespass, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot and Van Der Graaf Generator’s H to He Who Am the Only One and Pawn Hearts (as well as Le Orme’s above-mentioned Smogmagica). Whitehead’s touch is immediately recognizable in the delicate pastel hues and peaceful, pastoral feel of the album cover, which is somewhat reminiscent of Italian Renaissance painting with its bold use of perspective. The painting’s title, The Stonecutter, is the English translation of Tagliapietra’s surname.

A word of warning: those who are looking for Felona e Sorona # 2 need not apply, because – as even a cursory look at the track list will show – Nella Pietra e Nel Vento adopts a song-based, singer-songwriter style rather than a traditional progressive rock one. Those familiar with Le Orme’s early albums (especially Collage) will not fail to recognize the similarities between them and the elegant, exquisitely melodic compositions featured on Nella Pietra e Nel Vento. The prog imprint is present in the rich instrumentation, with the keyboards manned by Aligi Pasqualetto and Andrea De Nardi expertly weaving layers of lush melodies, supported by Manuel Smaniotto’s discreet drumming and Matteo Ballarin’s clear, flowing guitar work (De Nardi, Ballarin and Smaniotto are also members of The Former Life).

All the songs on Nella Pietra e Nel Vento have a straightforward structure that privileges melody and accessibility over complexity. Though a couple of tracks border dangerously close to commercial melodic pop – with “Tra il Bene e il Male” (featuring original Le Orme bassist Claudio Galieti) being the main offender – the album leans towards a prog-tinged song form with occasional classical and folk influences that occasionally bring to mind the output of another outstanding Italian artist, Angelo Branduardi . The vocals (and thus the lyrics) occupy centre stage, which may not fly very well with those who are more inclined towards the instrumental showcases typical of conventional prog. Though those who are not familiar with Italian will inevitably miss out on the content, Tagliapietra’s deeply personal, positive lyrics feel like a breath of fresh air if compared to the current trend for doom and gloom. While his life-changing experience with Indian music and culture is often referenced in the songs, the influence of Eastern music is conspicuously absent from the album, which is instead permeated with the warmth and melodic flair of the Mediterranean.

Clocking in at around 41 minutes, Nella Pietra e Nel Vento comprises 10 songs between 3 and 5 minutes long, in which the highly accomplished musical accompaniment provided by Tagliapietra himself and his young band act as a framework for the artist’s trademark vocals, slightly plaintive yet confident and expressive. While his voice may be an acquired taste for some, it is undeniable that, unlike what happened to many of his contemporaries, it has remained as strong as it was in the Seventies, and possibly grown even better with age. The title-track, introduced by the solemn note of a church organ, develops in a mid-paced, catchy tune that highlights Tagliapietra’s immaculate vocals and Aligi Pasqualetto’s rippling piano. Andrea De Nardi’s Hammond organ, discreetly yet unmistakably present to add fullness and a touch of spice to the sound, in contrast with the more lyrical voice of the piano, really comes into its own in the last two tracks –  the upbeat, almost singalong “Dio Lo Sa”, whose folksy feel may recall PFM’s more light-hearted efforts, and closing track “Il Sutra del Cuore”, where the clear, chime-like tone of the guitar offset by the earthier rumble of the organ will not fail to evoke vintage Genesis.  In contrast, “Sette Passi”, whose lyrics reference Buddha’s life story, is meditative and atmospheric, with mellotron providing a symphonic foil for Tagliapietra’s intense vocal performance.

A classy, heartwarming album that, while not exactly prog, bears nonetheless the strong imprint of Tagliapietra’s long involvement with the genre, Nella Pietra e Nel Vento will appeal most to those who prize melody and singing rather than intricate instrumental flights. Lovers of Italian music are very likely to appreciate it, as are those who are seeking a respite from the many overambitious, convoluted productions of today. The positive attitude emanating from both the music and the lyrics is refreshing, as is the mix of child-like simplicity and wisdom that contrasts so strongly with the world-weariness (or even outright pessimism) of so much modern music. Nella Pietra e Nel Vento is clearly not for everyone, but still highly recommended to fans of the more melodic side of classic prog.

Links:
http://www.aldotagliapietra.it

Read Full Post »

TRACKLISTING:
1. Eclissi Pt. 1 – L’Occhio e la Maschera (8:23)
2. La Maschera della Visione (5:58)
3. Fantasia (8:58)
4. Nel Nulla Etereo Soggiogato dall’Ignoto la Mente Si Espande (7:01)
5. Purpurea (10:00)
6. Follia (19:12)
7. Eclissi Pt. 2 – La Genesi (9:36)

LINEUP:
Gabriele Marroni – guitars
Filippo Menconi – bass
Andrea Valerio – piano, synth
Raffaele Crezzini – drums, percussion
Diego Samo – keyboards, synth

With:
Paolo Carelli – narration
Michele Sanchini – cello
Matteo Canestri – bass
Lucio Pacchieri – drums
Giovanni Ferretti – piano, synth

A band name such as Labirinto Di Specchi (Maze of Mirrors) suggests purveyors of intricate, multilayered music, heavy on atmosphere and intensity rather than smoothly flowing melodies. Indeed, the young five-piece hailing from the beautiful Tuscan town of Montepulciano (a place well known to wine lovers) belong to the growing contingent of new Italian bands that have updated the blueprint for progressive rock set by the iconic bands of the Seventies, and produced an album packed full of the twists and turns implied by their name.

Labirinto Di Specchi have been together since 2005; their first recording effort, a demo titled La Maschera della Visione, attracted the attention of Lizard Records, an independent label with a proven record for modern prog releases of a consistently high standard. Hanblecheya (a word in the Native American Lakota language denoting a vision quest), the band’s full-length debut, contains reworked material from the demo, as well as new compositions .It also sees the participation of a number of guest artists – most remarkably, that of Paolo Carelli, former vocalist of Pholas Dactylus, a short-lived outfit that in 1973 released Concerto delle Menti, one of the cult albums of the original RPI movement.

Clocking in at almost 70 minutes, Hanblecheya is impressively ambitious, its seven lengthy compositions describing the experience of the titular vision quest through a very distinctive format. Though there is no actual singing involved,  Paolo Carelli’s solemn, deep-voiced narration is like a thread connecting the seven tracks to each other. While synthesizers and assorted electronics are definitely at the core of the band’s musical vision, the fluid, melodic touch of the piano and full-throated rumble of the organ provide an organic foil, further balanced by the autumnal drone of the cello and the pervasive presence of both acoustic and electric guitars.

Any album tagged as “Porcupine Tree meets Pholas Dactylus” sounds like a rather interesting proposition, and Hanblecheya does not disappoint expectations. Though clearly not an easy listening experience, it is also surprisingly mature in its treatment of the inevitable influences. The psychedelic/space component, firmly rooted in the use of a wide range of electronics, gains a harder edge from occasional bursts of riffing that suggest a prog metal inspiration (particularly evident in “La Maschera della Visione”, the shortest track of the album and possibly the most accessible); while entrancing Mediterranean and Eastern suggestion lurk in the two compositions bookending the album , with the heady, raga-inspired section in opener “Eclissi Pt.1 – L’Occhio e la Maschera” reprised in the second half of “Eclissi Pt. 2 – La Genesi”.

Not all of the many ideas thrown into Hanblecheya’s  melting pot of are successful: the classical-meets-electronic bent of  the second half of “Fantasia” borders dangerously on the cheesiness of those classical “rock” adaptations that were quite popular in the Eighties, and clashes with the wistful, atmospheric mood of the first part of the song.  On the other hand, the ominous post rock surge of “Purpurea” and the all-out experimentalism of “Nel Nulla Etereo Soggiogato dall’Ignoto la Mente Si Espande”, revolving around Carelli’s eerily effective narration (the most reminiscent of his Pholas Dactylus days), and wrapped up by a noisy industrial section (the whole bringing to mind label mates Runaway Totem at their most impenetrable) hold up to close scrutiny, in spite of their undeniably “difficult” nature. The album’s crowning achievement, however, comes with the 19-minute “Foll(i)a” (a title conflating the Italian words for “crowd” and “madness”), an intensely cinematic piece that, while paying homage to Steven Wilson’s signature style, manages to avoid blatant derivativeness.  A fresh take on the old “epic” warhorse, the track hinges on a “duel” between a whole array of electronic effects and the gentle ripple of the piano, ending in an exhilarating cascade of cymbals, piano and majestic synth washes.

Although, as suggested in the previous paragraphs, Hanblecheya is not for everyone, it has all it takes to attract those prog fans who like the genre to look forward without completely turning its back to its glorious past. Firmly anchored to the Italian progressive tradition by its keen sense of melody and the rivetingly dramatic tone of Paolo Carelli’s narration, yet unafraid to experiment with more radical musical directions, and skilled in combining the acoustic, the electric and the electronic component (though at times the slashing, whistling presence of synths can become a tad overwhelming), Labirinto Di Specchi are a band that adventurous listeners would do well to check out.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/labirintodispecchi

http://www.lizardrecords.it/

Read Full Post »

TRACKLISTING:
1. Una Strana Commedia (10:24)
2. L’Occhio del Ciclone (6:39)
3. Corto Circuito (6:26)
4. Bianca Scia (9:25)
5. L’Orgoglio di Arlecchino (12:26)

LINEUP:
Mario Cottarelli – vocals, all instruments

Hailing from the northern Italian city of Cremona,  Mario Cottarelli is a self-taught musician and composer who has been active in the music world since the early Seventies. In spite of his lifelong love of progressive rock, when the music industry’s interest in the genre began to wane towards the end of the decade, Cottarelli had to take a more commercial path in his career as a professional musician. His debut album, Prodigiosa Macchina, released in November 2007, revisited some of the material he had written in 1975, with new lyrics and arrangements.

Even for fans of Italian progressive rock, Mario Cottarelli is anything but a household name, and Prodigiosa Macchina – though it got its fair share of reviews on specialized magazines and websites – seemed to attract more criticism than praise. However, for all its somewhat naïve, rough-around-the-edges nature,  it was an interesting album, oozing a sense of sheer joy and enthusiasm that set it apart from so many prog-by-numbers releases. For Una Strana Commedia, conversely, Cottarelli adopted a more structured, balanced approach in his reworking of material composed in the years 1974-1981. Since those compositions were for the most part rather sketchy, Cottarelli did not only rearrange them, but also added some new parts.

While such operations are quite commonplace on today’s rock scene, the casual listener may often feel that the material has not aged too well. However, odd as it may sound, Una Strana Commedia sounds fresher than the average release by one of those “retro” bands that seem to reap so much praise in prog circles. Though, as was the case with Prodigiosa Macchina,  there are unmistakable references to the greats of prog’s golden age, the album sounds original rather than blatantly derivative – and a lot of this originality lies in Cottarelli’s vocals, with its deep and soothing, yet wryly humorous tone – so unlike the often over-the-top style adopted by many prog singers, Italian and otherwise.

Una Strana Commedia features five compositions, none of them longer than 12 minutes – unlike its predecessor, which had a slightly shorter running time spread over just 3 tracks. Its title (meaning “A Strange Comedy”) refers to life itself, seen from the artist’s point of view as a baffling, somewhat absurdist play, not to be taken too seriously: indeed, the cover photo of a Persian cat (Cottarelli’s own cat Mitzy, who unfortunately passed away some time ago) is meant to contrast the overly complicated way in which humans approach life with the innocence and wisdom of animals. While the intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics are definitely above average, an understanding of Italian is not essential in order to appreciate the album – though it is certainly a bonus.

Entirely performed by Cottarelli, and recorded in his home studio taking full advantage of modern technology, Una Strana Commedia is heavily biased towards keyboards (though the artist started his musical career as a drummer), with guitar and a number of sampled instruments making occasional appearances. The title-track will strike the listener for the upbeat nature of its lilting, dance-like main theme, interspersed by more sedate passages, and spotlighting Cottarelli’s distinctive, almost recited vocals; the stately classical influences mingle with intriguing folk/medieval overtones reminiscent of Jethro Tull or Gentle Giant (especially when the sampled flute kicks in). In contrast, the shorter “L’Occhio del Ciclone” hinges on a dramatic, intense mood conveyed by a combination of synth slashes, atmospheric keyboard washes and orchestral samples that include strings and horns; in a similar vein, the measured mid-tempo of  “Corto Circuito” again highlights Cottarelli’s deep, expressive vocals underpinned by layers of majestic keyboard flourishes. The eerie cinematic allure of the somewhat tense instrumental middle section of “Bianca Scia” brings to mind Goblin (as well as Genesis and ELP), which is not surprising, seen as Cottarelli collaborated with Claudio Simonetti in the Eighties. Album closer “L’Orgoglio di Arlecchino”, the only completely instrumental track, offers a complex, multilayered keyboard feast to which the presence of the guitar in the second half lends a more definite rock flavour.

Though Mario Cottarelli openly pays homage to classic prog modes, and does not claim to be reinventing the proverbial wheel, his second release has a higher originality quotient than the endless slew of albums that sound like outtakes from any of the big Seventies bands. Fans of Italian progressive rock (especially those who have some knowledge of the language) are quite likely to appreciate Una Strana Commedia, but the album is an interesting proposition for anyone who is into keyboard-based prog, and does not mind a healthy dose of quirkily expressive vocals with it.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/mcottarelli

http://www.progarchives.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=82656

Read Full Post »

My regular readers may have noticed my frequent references to the lively progressive rock scene in the northwestern Italian region of Liguria, particularly as regards the great seaport of Genoa – supported by the activity of well-known independent labels based in the area (such as Mellow Records and Black Widow) in promoting a genre that has put firm and enduring roots in the Italian music scene since the early Seventies. Sadly, as some of my readers may know, at the end of October the whole region was affected by major flooding, which caused very serious damage and loss of life, especially in the beautiful area known as the Cinque Terre.

As a number of circumstances (such as the Japan earthquake) have proved, prog artists – in spite of the airy-fairy stereotype perpetuated by the media – do have a keen social conscience. In order to raise funds to help the local population to cope with the aftermath of the floods, a one-day festival called ProG Liguria will be hosted by the port city of La Spezia, the administrative centre of the area affected by the natural disaster, on January 21, 2012. The event, organized by Genoa-based architect and longtime prog fan Angelo De Negri and independent labels Black Widow, Ma.Ra.Cash and Distilleria Music Factory, will also involve the collaboration of the thriving, internationally renowned tourist and food industry of the La Spezia province.

ProG Liguria will last from noon to midnight, and feature a number of high-profile Italian prog bands and artists, many of whom have been featured on this blog: legendary Seventies acts such as Osanna (with special guest Gianni Leone), Delirium (with special guests Sophya Baccini and Franco Taulino), Arti e Mestieri (with special guest Gigi Venegoni), Nuova Idea (with special guests Joe Vescovi, Giorgio Piazza and Marco Zoccheddu), Locanda delle Fate and Maxophone; rising stars such as Il Tempio delle Clessidre (with special guest Max Manfredi), The Watch, La Maschera di Cera, La Torre dell’Alchimista, Moongarden and Altare Thotemico; Claudio Simonetti’s project Daemonia (familiar to those who attended ROSfest 2011); supergroup CCLR (Cavalli Cocchi, Lanzetti, Roversi, with special guest Aldo Tagliapietra), and New Trolls offshoot UT – Uno Tempore (featuring drummer Gianni Belleno).

Anyone who is planning to be in Italy in the month of January should not miss this once-in-a-lifetime event. Hopefully more details (such as ticket prices) will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

Where: Spezia Expo ‘ – Via del Canaletto, La Spezia (Italy)
When: Saturday, January 2, 2012 – from noon to midnight
Information: (+39) 346 619 1593/ 010 246 1708

Read Full Post »

TRACKLISTING:
1. Cronovisione (7:36)
2. Gatto Lupesco (7:23)
3. Nei Cerchi del Legno (13:09):
– a. Pinocchio (0:00)
– b. V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (2:17)
– c. L’Eterna Spirale del Destino (5:22)
– d. Radici di una Coscienza (8:57)
4. Il Fattore Precipitante (7:00)
5. Il Basilisco (6:19)
6. Un Insolito Baratto Alchemico (7:11)
7. Acustica Felina (9:37)

 LINEUP:
Gabriele Guidi Colombi – bass
Andrea Orlando – drums, percussion
Alessio Calandriello – vocals
Davide Serpico – electric and acoustic guitars
Andrea Lotti – piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar
Stefano Agnini – piano, keyboards

With:
Luca Scherani –  accordion (5), flute arrangement (6)
Joanne Roan – flute (6)
Rossano Villa – string arrangement (3, 7)
Lidia Molinari – voice (1, 7)

Another outstanding addition to the thriving music scene of the Italian port city of Genoa, La Coscienza di Zeno was founded in  2007 by a group of experienced musicians – bassist Gabriele “Estunno” Guidi Colombi (also a founding member of Il Tempio delle Clessidre), drummer Andrea Orlando and vocalist Alessio Calandriello. Keyboardist and lyricist Stefano Agnini joined the band at the beginning of 2008, while guitarist Davide Serpico (who replaced original guitarist Matteo Malvezzi) and keyboardist Andrea Lotti joined between 2008 and 2009. Agnini left at the end of the recording sessions for La Coscienza di Zeno’s self-titled debut album, which had started in May 2010.

The band takes its distinctive name (meaning “Zeno’s Conscience” in English, and often shortened to CDZ for ease of reference) from one of the masterpieces of Italian literature, the ground-breaking psychological novel published in 1923 by writer and businessman Italo Svevo, and written in the form of an autobiography meant to help the titular Zeno’s attempts to quit smoking through psychoanalysis. Not surprisingly, La Coscienza di Zeno’s debut possesses a definite intellectual appeal – though without the level of pretentiousness that might be expected _ revolving around Stefano Agnini’s highly literate lyrics (loosely inspired by the novel) masterfully interpreted by lead singer Alessio Calandriello’s technically impeccable voice, passionate without being overwrought.

La Coscienza di Zeno is one of those rare albums that, while in keeping with the classic prog tradition of long tracks, rich instrumentation (with special prominence given to the keyboards) and intricate arrangements, achieves the considerable feat of never overstaying its welcome.  As other reviewers have pointed out, the album is not as easy to approach as other comparable efforts, and the first impression might be somewhat deceiving. To be perfectly honest, after my first listen I thought, here is another of the many Italian Genesis-worshipping bands – which, after successive listens, turned out to be a very unfair assessment. Indeed, while the Genesis influence is occasionally hard to miss, the album’s roots lie firmly and deeply in the great Italian prog tradition, with Banco del Mutuo Soccorso a particularly apt reference, mainly on account the presence of two keyboardists and the remarkable balance between vocal and instrumental parts.

Clocking in at slightly under one hour, La Coscienza di Zeno features seven tracks between 6 and 13 minutes. Though the main foundation of the album is symphonic, lush and multilayered, with plenty of seamless instrumental interplay, outstanding solo passages and rivetingly expressive singing, there is also enough variety to keep the interest of the more eclectic-minded listeners, with a wide range of influences cropping up almost unexpectedly, from waltz to folk by way of jazz and even hard rock. The almost wholly instrumental (except for the spoken-word vocals in the middle) opener “Cronovisione” is melodic and intricate at the same time, with echoes of Yes in the airy synth sweeps laced with faintly spiky guitar, and of Banco in the majestic yet dynamic feel imparted by the twin keyboards. “Gatto Lupesco”, hinges on Alessio Calandriello’s amazing vocal range and expressive power, complemented by a musical accompaniment that is melancholy and intense in turns, driven by keyboards and dramatic drumming. The obligatory epic, “Nei Cerchi del Legno” (partly inspired by the iconic tale of Pinocchio, one of the few instances of Italian literature that have had some international resonance) has a rather unusual format, being mostly instrumental, with vocals making an appearance only towards the end. The music, on the other hand, is a triumph of imposing symphonic passages rendered even more lush by the double keyboard setup and string arrangement, almost jazzy inserts offset by gently meditative episodes, and stunning synth-guitar interplay that brings to mind Genesis’ immortal “Firth of Fifth”.

Out of the remaining four tracks, “Il Fattore Precipitante” pursues the classic Italian prog route, with the lavish, airy Genesis-like suggestions sharpened by some heavy riffing and high-powered rhythm work courtesy of Gabriele Guidi Colombi and Andrea Orlando – though Calandriello steals the show here, his vocal tour de force complemented by a superb instrumental tapestry of keyboards, drums and guitar. “Il Basilisco”, on the other hand, signals a sharp change in mood and musical style – a folk-tinged number veined with melancholy and enhanced by the arresting, unmistakably Old-World accordion of guest artist Luca Scherani of Höstsonaten, also showcasing Davide Serpico’s lovely acoustic guitar work. The splendid, exquisitely tense instrumental “Un Insolito Baratto Alchemico” juxtaposes quieter, flute-led sections and stormy keyboard passages spiced by metal-hued riffing, enriched by solemn organ and lilting piano; while closer “Acustica Felina” (the second longest track on the album) reprises the lush symphonic mood of the beginning, rounded up by the deep choral tone of the inevitable Mellotron. Calandriello’s voice tackles the challenging lyrical matter with superb expertise, veering from gentleness to a deep, almost menacing tone; the song is then wrapped up by a magnificent, Hackettian guitar solo.

With refreshing honesty, La Coscienza di Zeno make no bones about paying homage to the progressive rock tradition of the Seventies, both Italian and British – even if the sound quality and production values of their debut album are thoroughly modern, and lend extra depth and dimension to the elegantly complex music. An obvious labour of love, every aspect of the album has been carefully considered in order to offer a complete experience to the discerning listener – with stylish, mostly black-and-white photography and detailed liner notes, including the lyrics (which make worthwhile reading for anyone familiar with the Italian language). Indeed, La Coscienza di Zeno is a must for all lovers of vintage Italian prog, adding the band to the growing list of excellent “traditional but modern” acts that already includes their fellow Genoese Il Tempio delle Clessidre and La Maschera di Cera, as well as the revamped Delirium. Highly recommended to symphonic prog fans and anyone who is not put off by foreign-language vocals, this is another classy package coming from the ever-dependable Italian prog scene.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/lacoscienzadizeno

Read Full Post »

 

Taking for once a well-deserved break from the posting of my own writings, I want to advertise a really excellent piece of work on the part of my friend Jim Russell, who is in charge of the Rock Progressivo Italiano genre team at ProgArchives. My husband and I, together with a few others, laid the groundwork in the second half of the previous decade; then, after we stopped being active contributors to the site, a group of very motivated people, madly in love with Italian prog (in both its vintage and modern incarnations), have been carrying the torch, introducing the visitors of the site to this incredibly fertile and diverse subgenre. While most of these RPI enthusiasts are not Italian (or even European), and some of them – like Jim himself – have never visited Italy,  the sheer enthusiasm and dedication with which they have been carrying out their “mission” has earned them the gratitude of many Italian bands and artists, and also increased the level of exposure of RPI on the international scene.

Over the past  few months, Jim and his collaborator Andrea Parentin (an Italian with outstanding command of English and an encyclopedic knowledge of the Italian progressive rock scene) have managed to track down three former members of one of the best original RPI bands, Rome-based Quella Vecchia Locanda (QVL for short), who in the early Seventies released two very highly rated albums before disbanding for good. In their exhaustive answers, Massimo Roselli, Donald Lax and Claudio Filice give some invaluable insights into the Italian prog scene in those heady years, even if (to the disappointment of the many fans of the subgenre) they put paid to any thoughts of  a possible comeback. The interview is a must-read for every fan of Italian progressive rock, and a wonderful piece of  journalism that puts  much of the stuff published on the “mainstream” music press to shame.

Here is the link to the interview: http://www.progarchives.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=80190&PID=4243740#4243740

I also encourage all my readers to check out the excellent work of the RPI team on ProgArchives, and possibly join the discussion in the dedicated forum thread (called “The Italian Prog Appreciation Den”). Heartfelt thanks to Jim and his fellow team members for all they do on behalf of Italian progressive rock.

Read Full Post »

In spite of the difficult economic times, and also of the prevailing “the grass is greener” attitude, in 2011 Europe is all set to offer an almost unprecedented range of progressive rock (and related) festivals – in sharp contrast with the (hopefully temporary) demise of both NEARfest and CalProg in the North American continent. In the past few weeks I have come across no less than four announcements of respectably-sized events taking place in various part of the boot-shaped peninsula.

The first edition of the Civitella Progressive Rock Festival will be held at the sports centre of the town of Civitella Paganico, in the Tuscan province of Grosseto, starting on July 16 with guitarist Alex Carpani and Pink Floyd tribute band Time Machine, and then continuing on the weekend of July 22/23  with Classic ELP Tribute, local band Gran Turismo Veloce and legends Le Orme (July 22), and The Watch opening for Fish (July 23).

On the same weekend (July 22-24), the festival We Love Vintage will be held at the sports centre Due Madonne in Bologna, with an impressive lineup featuring well-known names of the classic prog era such as the new supergroup CCLR (with Bernardo Lanzetti, and Aldo Tagliapietra as a special guest) and Arti e Mestieri with Mel Collins and David Cross, as well as up-and-coming acts such as Paolo Schianchi, Alex Carpani, Ego, Altare Thotemico, Stereokimono, Mappe Nootiche, Astralia, and Bologna’s own Accordo dei Contrari (with legendary ‘voice of Canterbury’ Richard Sinclair as a special guest).

In the same week, on July 21, the Austin-based duo WD-41 (recently interviewed here) at the Portello River Festival in Padova, an event that is sure to appeal to those with a keen interest in experimental and world music.

While the month of August in Italy is traditionally dedicated to vacation, progressive rock will make a comeback in September with another two extremely intriguing events. The 2 Days Prog Veruno will take place at the Piazzetta della Musica in the town of Veruno, in the Piedmontese province of Novara. This year the festival, in spite of its name, will last 3 days instead of two (September 2-4), and its exciting lineup will feature Italian acts such as Alex Carpani Band, Methodica, Il Tempio delle Clessidre, Arti e Mestieri (again with Mel Collins and David Cross) and Goblin, alongside celebrated international acts such as RPWL, Anathema, Riverside and Agents of Mercy.

This staggeringly rich season of music will be wrapped up by the Progressivamente Festival held at the Casa del Jazz in Rome on the following week (September 6-11). The event, dedicated to the memory of Italian musician and Chapman stick virtuoso Virginia Splendore (who tragically passed away at the end of May 2011), will offer a veritable ‘who is who’ of classic and modern Italian prog, with bands such as Il Tempio delle Clessidre, Locanda delle Fate, Murple, Fonderia, Metamorfosi, Le Orme and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, as well as Gentle Giant offshoot Three Friends and tribute acts Us and Them, Goblin…Rebirth and Progtop. An additional feature of the event will be listening ‘seminars’ for audiophiles comparing analog and digital recordings of the great prog albums of the Seventies.

As unbelievable as it may sound to my American readers, some of these events will be free of charge, or have a very accessible price (no higher than 20 euros).  Whoever is planning a trip to Italy in the summer months may be interested in planning things so as to be able to attend at least one of those concerts, which will offer the added bonus of great surroundings and excellent food and drink.

Links:
Civitella Progressive Rock Festival: http://www.synpress44.com/01Comunicati.asp?id=1113

We Love Vintage: http://www.welovevintage.it/

Portello River Festival: http://www.riverfilmfestival.org/PRF7.pdf

2 Days Prog Veruno: http://www.lastfm.it/festival/1936079+2+Days+Prog+Veruno

Progressivamente Festival: http://www.progressivamente.com/


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »