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Archive for the ‘Progressive’ Category

TRACKLISTING:
1. A Visit to Newport Hospital (8:25)
2. Contrasong (4:21)
3. Boilk (9:23)
4. Long Piece No. 3 –  Part One (5:06)
5. Long Piece No. 3 –  Part Two (7:39)
6. Long Piece No. 3 –  Part Three (8:01)
7. Long Piece No. 3 –  Part Four (2:51)

LINEUP:
Mont Campbell – bass, vocals, organ, piano, French horn
Dave Stewart – organ, piano, tone generator
Clive Brooks – drums

With:
Henry Lowther – trumpet (2)
Mike Davis – trumpet (2)
Bob Downes – tenor sax (2)
Tony Roberts – tenor sax (2)

Released in 1971, Egg’s sophomore effort is one of those albums that, in a way, can be said to be representative of a whole movement, though they rarely get the appreciation they deserve. Though “Canterbury scene” may sound rather vague as a definition, being more about a place than an actual musical style, it is nonetheless undeniable that most of the bands and artists associated with this most peculiar subgenre do share a number of features that go beyond their somewhat ‘incestuous’ sharing of personnel. Many see the output of the  “Canterbury scene” as a subsection of jazz-rock with poppy leanings and occasional excursions into more avant-garde territory; however, to these ears at least, the best Canterbury outfits offer a complete progressive package of humour, sophistication, diverse influences, and remarkable musical chops. Quintessentially English,  with a timeless feel that often eludes the more stereotyped instances of symphonic prog, the Canterbury sound commands fierce devotion, though its quirky nature can also leave listeners somewhat cold.

To all intents and purposes, Egg was a continuation of Uriel, the psychedelic progressive quartet that also included guitarist Steve Hillage (later with Khan and Gong), whose only album was released in 1969 under the name of Arzachel.  After Hillage left, the three remaining members took a different, more experimental route, pushing the keyboards at the forefront, and dabbling in those genre-defining contaminations between rock and classical music – as witnessed by “Fugue in D Minor” and “Symphony No.2”, both featured on their 1970 self-titled debut album.

In spite of its cult status among true-blue Canterbury fans, The Polite Force is generally not rated as highly as the likes of Third or In the Land of Grey and Pink. Some reviewers have even hinted at comparisons with the much-reviled ELP – owing to the similar configuration of both bands – which, unfortunately, does not do the album any favours. Now, though I consider ELP one of the most influential bands in the history of progressive rock, and rate their first five studio albums quite highly, I do not find the connection between their sound and Egg’s as evident as some maintain. While The Polite Force is very much a showcase for Dave Stewart’s distinctive style, and therefore a real delight for keyboard fans, it would also be unfair to state that the band is dominated by him. In fact,  bassist/vocalist Monty Campbell and drummer Clive Brooks (who joined blues-rock trio The Groundhogs after Egg’s demise) do not just function as supporting cast for Stewart’s keyboard antics, but drive the band’s sound along with their impressive, though understated, skills. Campbell is also a vocalist very much in the classic Canterbury mould, with a polite (pun unintended), pleasant voice that is the perfect complement to the band’s quirky, complex sound.

Though seven tracks are listed on the back cover, the album actually comprises four compositions, one of which, “Long Piece No.3” is divided into four parts. “A Visit to Newport Hospital” is one of the most impressive openers to be found on a Canterbury album – introduced by an almost Sabbath-like riff, heavy and plodding, which suddenly loosens up into a cheery, sprightly organ section. The gently ironical lyrics, relating some of the band’s experiences in their Uriel days, are an unobtrusive yet essential accompaniment to Stewart’s elegantly assertive organ; Brooks’ drumming underpins everything with a discreet touch.  The song then comes full circle, ending with the same gritty organ riff as it began.  In the following “Contrasong” a full-blown horns quartet punctuates Stewart’s dynamic piano forays and Campbell’s urgent vocals, with a basic 5/8 9/8 pattern reminiscent of Gentle Giant’s counterpoint arrangements; Stewart switches to organ later during the song, propelling it forward in parallel with Brook’s drumming, and the horns coming in bursts.  Next comes the somewhat controversial “Boilk”, a full-fledged avant-garde piece almost 10 minutes long, very much in the vein of King Crimson’s “Moonchild”. The composition, which had already appeared on Egg’s debut (though in shorter form), opens with the sound of running water, and includes improvisations on a Bach theme, tolling bells and a host of other effects.

The album closes with the ‘epic’ instrumental “Long Piece No.3”, about 20 minutes long if taken as a whole – though its four parts are listed separately. As the liner notes point out, the ‘outer’ parts (One and Four) are rhythmically based, while the ‘inner’ ones are harmonically based. Interestingly, the whole composition comes across as somewhat fragmented, with frequent pauses breaking up the flow of the music. Part One opens with Stewart’s briskly repetitive organ, assisted by Campbell on piano and organ, and driven along by Brooks’ skilful drumming. Part Two immediately introduces Stewart’s fluid organ, with the drums going back to a supporting role (though essential), and a palpably more melodic texture – though its central section contains a sort of improvisational organ piece that might bring “Boilk” to mind. Campbell’s bass introduces the textbook-Canterbury Part Three, with its almost military drum pattern, unbridled organ flights (sometimes reminiscent of Soft Machine’s Mike Ratledge), and tone generator adding wailing, guitar-like effects. Part Four wraps up the album in a short but intense climax, driven along by frantic drumming and harsh, fuzzed organ.

As Edward Macan intimates in his book Rocking the Classics, The Polite Force can be seen as bridging the gap between keyboard-based symphonic prog and the jazzier, quirkier sound typical of the Canterbury scene. Definitely one of the finest moments of  Stewart’s career, its eclectic nature – featuring as it does avant-garde experimentation, more or less ‘conventional’ songs, classical touches and plenty of instrumental brilliance –is likely to appeal to a wide range of fans of progressive music. While not a full-blown masterpiece like Third or The Rotters’ Club, it is doubtlessly one of the most interesting productions coming from the variegated Canterbury universe – and as such highly recommended.

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TRACKLISTING:
1. The Cave (23:35)
2. White Light, No Heat (11:28)
3. God’s Elastic Acre (18:16)
4. Sati & The Trainman (11:14)

LINEUP:
Gayle Ellett – analog and digital keyboards, electric guitar, effects
Chuck Oken, Jr. – analog, digital and modular keyboards, electronic percussion, effects, loop processing and reconstruction

With:
Richard Pinhas – guitar loops (1-3)

Ukab Maerd’s The Waiting Room, the second of Djam Karet’s side projects to be  released in 2010, is a very different affair from Mike Henderson’s song-oriented White Arrow Project. The brainchild of Djam Karet’s founding members Gayle Ellet and Chuck Oken, Jr., with legendary French musician Richard Pinhas guesting on three out of four tracks, Ukab Maerd (“Baku Dream” spelled backwards – a reference to DK’s 2003 album A Night for Baku) is a vehicle for the creation of hypnotic soundscapes inspired by the European electronic music of the Seventies. The two musicians describe the album’s content as mind music that draws its inspiration from dream language and Surrealist art – a definition that fits it to a T.

While neither an expert nor a dedicated listener of progressive electronic music, I recognize its importance both in historical and artistic terms, and The Waiting Room provides a fine example of the possibilities offered by technology. Even if its running time of about 64 minutes (divided into four tracks, none under 11 minutes) might turn it into an ordeal for people who are not used to listening to music produced almost exclusively with electronic instruments, the album undeniably possesses a mesmerizing quality, at least if taken in judicious doses. As can be expected, the main points of reference are German giants such as Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, as well as their followers from other European countries (including Pinhas’ former band Heldon). Most of the album was recorded live at two different performances by Ellett and Oken, with Pinhas’ parts added subsequently.

Many people are put off by electronic music on account of its supposedly cold, overly cerebral nature, unlike warmer, more down-to-earth musical forms such as rock or blues. While this may in some respects not be entirely wrong, the music presented on The Waiting Room intrigues and captures in a sharply different fashion than guitar-driven rock, progressive or otherwise. As the pointed out in the press release, it is music that appeals to the mind rather than the body, conceived to be listened to with some degree of concentration, and therefore always at risk of fading in the background if used as a soundtrack for other activities. With a minimal amount of percussion, and guitars manipulated in such a way as to become unrecognizable, the music ebbs and flows with hypnotic regularity, while all kinds of electronic sound effects enhance the moods and atmospheres created by layers of synthesizers.

“The Cave” evokes the titular place with uncanny accuracy, eerie sounds suggesting machinery or sloshing underground waters, the keyboards surging in waves or subsiding with a movement that may come across as monotonous, but also subtly unsettling and quite fascinating. The following “White Light, No Heat” alternates between majestic keyboard surges that create a sense of keen tension and disturbing industrial noises, replaced in the second half by tinkling yet vaguely robotic keys; while “God’s Elastic Acre” unfolds in a cinematic sweep underpinned by clanging, echoing sounds, droning and bubbling noises, while the solemn tone of the keyboards takes on a more upbeat, Eastern-tinged note towards the end. Album closer “Sati and the Trainman”, the more accessible number by far, revolves around a pulsating synth line paralleled by a slower, more atmospheric tune that suggests a train running through a darkened, slightly sinister landscape.

Needless to say, devotees of this particular genre will be able to show The Waiting Room the appreciation it deserves; while those listeners who can only process small quantities of almost completely electronic music might find it a bit too demanding to sit through the whole 64 minutes, and decide instead to break the album into separate segments. On any account, The Waiting Room is a fine example of vintage progressive electronics, and –  even for those who, like me, have never been keen followers of electronic music – it is very much worth a listen.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/ukabmaerd
http://www.djamkaret.com

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TRACKLISTING:
1. La Faulx  (25:03)
2. Jack the Ripper (13:20)
3. Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu (12:51)
4. Chaos Hermetique (bonus track) (11:52)

LINEUP:
Michel Berckmans – oboe, bassoon (1-3)
Daniel Denis – drums, percussion
Patrick Hanappier – violin, viola
Vincent Motouille – keyboards (4)
Guy Segers – bass, voice
Roger Trigaux – guitar, piano, organ, harmonium

Released when the original prog movement had, for the most part, already run out of steam, over the years Heresie has built a reputation as one of the gloomiest, most disturbing records ever produced in a progressive rock context. A descent into unadulterated darkness, Univers Zéro’s second album enjoys near-legendary status in the more forward-thinking circles of prog fans. As technically brilliant as any of the ‘big name’ bands of the early Seventies (and possibly even more so), the Belgian outfit approach the creation of highly challenging music from a distinctly different angle than the likes of Genesis or Yes – while a comparison with King Crimson might feel more appropriate.

Almost 32 years after Heresie’s release, Univers Zéro are the only founding band of the Rock in Opposition movement to be still active. With their latest release, Clivages, hailed as one of the last year’s landmark albums, their performance at the 2010 edition of the Sonic Circuits Festival in Washington DC (thanks to the joint efforts of the festival organizers and the band’s label, Cuneiform Records) was nothing short of breathtaking. They are also, however, a very divisive band to the more conservative set of prog fans, who often look upon the whole RIO/Avant scene as little more than a bunch of purveyors of jarring, overly demanding fare with pseudo-intellectual pretensions. While most of the classic prog of the ‘70s is symphonic in inspiration, with Univers Zéro we enter ‘chamber rock’ territory – which, just like its classical counterpart, can be the object of equally intense love or loathing.

Originally running at a whopping 50 minutes (very unusually for a single vinyl album), and almost completely acoustic, Heresie undoubtedly shares more with academic music than conventional rock, with typical rock instruments like the guitar taking a back seat. While Daniel Denis’ astounding drumming forms the core of the band’s sound, his style distinctly clashes with the common image of the powerhouse rock drummer. Having been so lucky as to see him and Magma’s Christian Vander on stage in the space of a week, I was struck by how both of them come across as almost antithetic to the brash, flamboyant style of drummers such as Mike Portnoy. Indeed, both Denis’ and Vander’s  approach to drumming brings to mind the role of percussion in an orchestra –  not merely propulsive, but textural and expressive at the same time. .

Though frequently described as the ideal soundtrack to a horror movie (or even to one of HP Lovecraft’s insomnia-inducing short stories), Heresie does not have a lot in common with the hard-hitting, yet slightly garish music produced by the likes of Goblin and Keith Emerson for Dario Argento’s iconic slasher flicks. As pointed out in the very thorough liner notes (courtesy of Renato Moraes and Aymeric Leroy, Canterbury expert extraordinaire and founder of the Calyx website), the album’s centrepiece, the monumental, 25-minute “La Faulx” (The Scythe) parallels the structure of Ingmar Bergman’s legendary The Seventh Seal – also suggested by the bleak, sepia-tinted cover artwork. Though “La Faulx” might at first appear as Univers Zéro’s idiosyncratic take on that old prog warhorse, the ‘epic’, I see it as perfectly contained chamber piece rather than a mini-symphony like “Close to the Edge”or “Supper’s Ready”. Opening with about seven minutes of nightmarishly chaotic sounds, echoing drum beats and menacing vocal growls in an invented language that would give any death metal band a run for their money, it develops into an intense, mesmerizing theme propelled along by Denis’ subtle yet relentless drumming and Michel Berckmans’ rich tapestry of woodwinds, interspersed by the plaintive voice of the violin. When, towards the end, the controlled chaos subsides, a hint of melody surfaces, as well as a measure of calm that seem to reflect the ending of Bergman’s masterpiece.

While apparently more cohesive and linear in compositional structure, “Jack the Ripper” suggests the devastation wrought by the titular character by means of harsh violin slashes, while the bassoon and drums at the beginning evoke the slow, plodding pace of a funeral march. The whole structure of the track is indeed ruled by the drums, whose expressive potential unfolds fully, lending them a ‘voice’ that transcends mere rhythmic beat. On the other hand, “Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu” (We’ll Let You Know in Due Time) is the most classically-inspired of the three original compositions, with a tuneful, almost upbeat first half reminiscent of Stravinsky, gradually driving towards a disturbing, doom-laden culmination – the ‘due time’ of the title probably referring to the moment of death.

The thorough remixing process undergone by Heresie lifts the music from the murky depths of the original version – perhaps effective in terms of atmosphere, but much less so in terms of musical enjoyment. However, besides the definite improvement of the sound quality, the main attraction of the album lies in the previously unreleased track “Chaos Hermetique”, remastered from an audio cassette copy and originally recorded in 1975,  prior to Berckmans’ arrival. With a definitely more electric direction, it revolves around composer Roger Trigaux’s guitar, conjuring shades of the sleek angularity of King Crimson; while Denis assumes a more conventional rock drummer role, providing plenty of bottom end in unison with Guy Segers’ bass.

Splendidly composed and flawlessly executed, Heresie can nonetheless prove nearly unapproachable for those who believe melody and memorable tunes are essential components of music. While not as harsh or atonal as other efforts by RIO/Avant bands, and much more disciplined and tightly knit than one might expect, this is an album that needs to be listened to with care and attention, preferably when the time and mood are right – and not just because it is ‘scary’ music that might not make you sleep at night. Based on painstaking detail (like most chamber music) rather than broad sweeps, it also possesses the austere beauty of medieval architecture, stark though not exactly minimalistic, yet full of  majesty and power. In any case, I would recommend Heresie to anyone interested in authentically progressive, challenging music, though not necessarily ‘prog’ in the canonical sense of the word. A liking for early 20th-century academic music would also help when approaching Univers Zéro’s output as a whole.

Links:
http://www.univers-zero.com
http://www.cuneiformrecords.com

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Fame (3:53)
2. Fiaba (6:57)
3. Claustrofilia (5:27)
4. Malamore e la Luna (8:59)
5. Amanti in Guerra (5:56)
6. Ombre Cinesi (5:38)
7. Apnea (7:15)
8. Il Giardino degli Altri (8:16)
9. La Corsa dei Trattori (ghost track) (1:44)
10. Se (7:59)
11. Lana di Vetro (7:55)
12. Ciò Che Rimane (8:59)

LINEUP:
Francesco Chiapperini –  alto and soprano sax, clarinet, flute, EWI
Andrea Illuminati – piano, melodica, bombarda
Claudio Milano – vocals
Andrea Murada – percussion, didjeridoo, noise effects, flute, rhythmic vocals
Max Pierini – electric upright bass, ocarina
Luca Pissavini – electrified viola, synth, toy instruments, “Matilda” noise machinery, field recordings, no-input mixer, duduk, theremin
Lorenzo Sempio – electric guitar, baritone guitar, guitar synth and effects

With:
Carola Caruso – backing vocals (6), vocals (2)
Stefano Delle Monache – electronics and laptop (6)
Estibaliz Igea – opera soprano singer (5)
Luciano Margorani – electric guitar, noises (4)
Luca Olivieri – synth, noises (3), glockenspiel (11)
Claudio Pirro – classical guitar (1, 2)
Antonello Raggi – electronics, laptop (10)
Marco Tuppo – synth (11)

For all the prejudice held by some so-called experts against Italian progressive rock outfits – seen as purveyors of sickly sweet melodies and bombastic, often overdone compositions – the Italian scene offers quite a surprising range of options for those who like their progressive music to have something of an edge. While not as plentiful or high-profile as those hailing from other European countries (Belgium comes to mind), avant-garde bands and solo artists have been a prominent feature on the Italian scene since the golden days of the Seventies, with names such as Picchio dal Pozzo, Opus Avantra and even Area (often too hastily labelled as a jazz-rock band). In the first decade of the 21st century, Italy has produced a number of very interesting outfits on the more left-field fringe of progressive rock – even if some of them really have very few rock elements in their musical output.

Hailing from Milan, the current incarnation Nichelodeon is a seven-piece, almost a mini-orchestra, augmented by a number of guest musicians. Originally born as a project by composer/singer Claudio Milano – a highly qualified musician and visual artist with extensive international experience – with Francesco Zago and Maurizio Fasoli of Yugen (the band that made waves in 2007 with their debut release, Labirinto d’Acqua), unlike the latter and other outfits loosely placed under the RIO/Avant umbrella, Nichelodeon are a vocal-based act rather than an instrumental one. As a matter of fact, the term ‘band’ might be seen as somewhat restrictive when referring to Nichelodeon, who see themselves as a workshop open to the contribution of any artist willing to experiment. Consequently, very much unlike many modern acts whose activity is generally limited to the studio, a marked emphasis is placed on their live performances – as witnessed by Come Sta Annie?, the DVD released as a companion effort to Il Gioco del Silenzio, recorded in the spring of 2010 as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of ground-breaking TV series Twin Peaks.

It should be obvious from this short introduction that Nichelodeon are not purveyors of ‘conventional’ progressive rock. In the very thorough liner notes of the album, they describe themselves as ‘a chemical laboratory, engaged in performing audio-visual crafts’ – a description that, for once, does not ring like idle boasting.  Running at almost 80 minutes, Il Gioco del Silenzio (whose title refers to a very popular children’s game) is anything but an easy listen, occasionally even slightly uncomfortable, but always compelling. On account of its strong vocal orientation, it reminded me of the work of another Italian avant-garde outfit, S.A.D.O. –  Claudio Milano could indeed compete with S.A.D.O. vocalist Boris Savoldelli for the title of heir of the late, great Demetrio Stratos. However, while Savoldelli’s approach tends to be more ironical  (if not exactly light-hearted), Milano’s compositions are definitely intense, demanding a lot of attention on the part of the listener, and graced by highly literate, thought-provoking lyrics that are presented both in Italian and English.

Recorded live in the studio, Il Gioco del Silenzio is a dark, angular effort with a subtly subversive vein – chamber music for the 21st century, conceived as a homage to the European song tradition and unabashedly intellectual in its appeal. Fearlessly blending different musical influences – from folk to tango, from electronica to opera – with the support of a rich, inventive instrumentation, the 12 songs challenge the mind and the ear, creating intriguingly bleak landscapes of existentialist malaise and moral decadence reminiscent of the cultural climate of the early 20th century. Needless to say, reviewing such an album can uncommonly challenging. At times the mere listening experience can feel somewhat frustrating, since the music almost begs to be rendered in visual terms. As can be expected, Il Gioco del Silenzio is not always a comfortable listening experience – on the contrary, the sudden bouts of dissonance breaking up the melodic flow of a song, and the distinct creepiness of some sound effects create disquieting atmospheres that are very likely to put off those seeking more conventional, reassuring fare.

The band cite a wide range of very diverse influences, from contemporary academic music icons such as Luciano Berio and Luigi Nono to monuments of highbrow European songwriting like Kurt Weill and Jacques Brel. On the other hand, the names of Red-era King Crimson, as well as seminal RIO/Avant outfits Henry Cow, Art Bears and Univers Zéro will ring most familiar to progressive rock fans; indeed, something of the darkly mesmerizing textures of Daniel Denis’ outfit circa Heresie can be detected while listening to Il Gioco del Silenzio. However, here the instrumental component, while not by any means secondary, is put at the service of Claudio Milano’s commanding vocal exertions. Milano’s extensive training and experience of vocal styles often quite far removed from the Western tradition  (“Il Giardino degli Altri” offers a taste of his love for ethnic chants, as well as hypnotic tribal percussion patterns) fits the moods and atmospheres evoked by the musical background like a glove. His voice, lyrical, aggressive and manic in turns, sets the pace and almost bends the instruments to its will – as shown most clearly by the positively arduous “Ombre Cinesi”.

With only a couple of exceptions, the tracks tend to be rather long (though not in an ‘epic’ sense); four of them (“Fame”, “Malamore e la Luna”, “Amanti in Guerra” e “Ciò Che Rimane”) were previously featured on Nichelodeon’s debut album, Cinemanemico (2008). Combining traditional song forms with all-out experimentation, they showcase Milano’s maddeningly versatile vocals over a rarefied, occasionally strident instrumental background of unremitting intensity. On any account, describing any of the songs in detail would be a difficult and thankless task – by and large, it might be stated that they are quite similar to each other, even without actually sounding alike. The red thread of tension running through the songs keeps listeners on their toes, enhanced by the dramatic use of hammering piano chords, sound effects and vaguely sinister reeds. Milano’s voice dips and soars in the space of a few minutes, as shown immediately by the first couple of songs, “Fame” and “Fiaba”, as well as the dramatic “Claustrofilia”, highlighted by snippets of guitar soloing in true rock style. Closing track “Ciò Che Rimane” (together with “Malamore e la Luna” the longest number on the album, clocking in at almost 9 minutes) also features some noteworthy guitar work, as well as a vocal performance that made me think of Demetrio Stratos and Area.

Though definitely a tad too long for my standards, and certainly anything but an easy or relaxing proposition,  Il Gioco del Silenzio is one of the most interesting releases of the past year. It also provides further proof that – in spite of the many practical hurdles facing musicians that do not subscribe to a mainstream view of things – the progressive scene is very much alive in Italy, and has a lot to offer to devotees of genuinely challenging music. A particular mention should also be made for the austerely elegant packaging, including some stunning photography of the band and distinctive cover artwork by painter Valentina Campagni.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/nichelodeonband
http://www.claudiomilano.it

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Save The Yuppie Breeding Grounds (4:12)
2. Ephebus Amoebus (4:55)
3. Nacho Sunset (4:29)
4. $9 Pay-Per-View Lifetime TV Movie (5:51)
5. Manifest Density (3:55)
6. Uncle Tang’s Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (4:01)
7. Disillusioned Avatar (5:15)
8. Kuru (5:02)
9. Revenge Grandmother (5:11)
10. Staggerin’ (4:41)
11. Middlebräu (6:46)

LINEUP:
Dennis Rea – electric guitar
Ruth Davidson – cello
Alicia Allen – violin
Kevin Millard – bass guitar, baliset
Jay Jaskot – drums

The city of Seattle has long been known as a hotbed for innovative music, from Jimi Hendrix to the grunge movement through progressive metal pioneers Queensryche. For several decades, it has also been the home of globe-trotting guitarist and composer Dennis Rea, originally from upstate New York, but now a full-fledged member of the Pacific Northwest artistic community. While Rea, in  his many years of tireless activity in the realms of creative music-making, has gathered an impressive discography (especially in terms of quality), he has never become a household name as he would have amply deserved. Luckily, the release of Moraine’s debut album in 2009, as well as his first solo album proper, View from Chicheng Precipice, and Iron Kim Style’s debut in 2010, have contributed to putting Rea’s name on the sprawling map of the progressive music scene.

Indeed, Moraine were selected for the 2010 edition of NEARfest, where they elicited quite a lot of interest – in spite of having been described as ‘avant-garde’ on the festival’s press material, a definition which (coupled with their placement in the opening Sunday slot, also known as the ‘rude awakening’, and generally reserved for rather idiosyncratic bands) kept the more conservative members of the audience away from their set. The members of the band, and Rea in particular, were somewhat amused at having been lumped together with much more ‘mainstream’ bands under the all-encompassing prog banner. In these times of derivative acts being peddled as the best thing since sliced bread, Moraine were possibly the most genuinely progressive band on the bill – though, as purveyors of hard-to-pinpoint music, they left some of the more label-happy members of the audience a tad baffled.

Although instrumental albums are seemingly a dime a dozen these days, Manifest Density (a brilliant pun on one of the most obnoxious aspects of US history) is not your average cookie-cutter instance of amazing chops unencumbered by soul and emotion. With a total of 11 tracks averaging 5 minutes in length  (the longest running at under 7 minutes),  and all of the five band members but drummer Jay Jaskot contributing to the compositional process, it is very much an ensemble effort, a collection of contemporary chamber rock pieces that comes with a liberal helping of almost Canterbury-like dry wit – though more geared to 21st-century American society. The essential input of the violin may draw comparisons with bands such as King Crimson circa Larks’ Tongue in Aspic or Mahavishnu Orchestra, while the pervasive presence of the cello may bring to mind Swedish Gothic proggers Anekdoten. However, in Moraine’s sound the cello’s unmistakable drone does not create the same kind of claustrophobic atmosphere, but rather adds that kind of depth that is generally supplied by the keyboards in the output of more conventional prog bands.

Since the individual members of Moraine have parallel involvements in a number of very diverse projects, ranging from jazz to stoner rock, it will not come as a surprise that eclecticism is the name of the game on Manifest Density. However, those anticipating a hodge-podge of disparate ideas that ultimately do not coalesce would be making the wrong assumption: the album as a whole impresses for its cohesion, even allowing for the different compositional styles of each band member. While Dennis Rea’s compositions (such as “Kuru” or “Staggerin’”) tend to favour a jazzier, more experimental style, two of the three tracks penned by co-founder Ruth Davidson (“$9 Pay-Per-View Lifetime TV Movie” and “Revenge Grandmother”) possess a wistful, low-key quality, shared by Alicia Allen’s deeply lyrical “Disillusioned Avatar”. On the other hand, album opener “Save the Yuppie Breeding Grounds”, also written by Davidson, is an energetic yet haunting number with a strong Crimsonian vibe; while bassist Kevin Millard’s “Ephebus Amoebus” opens in a slow, atmospheric fashion, then develops into a frenzied workout, with guitar and violin sparring with each other.

The quirky track titles inject a welcome dose of humour into the proceedings – a recurring feature in the work of other modern instrumental bands, but which Moraine (and especially Dennis Rea) seem to have got down to a fine art. Actually, the titles fit the musical content astonishingly well: “Uncle Tang’s Cabinet of Dr Caligari” is suitably dissonant, at times chaotic, with subtle Gothic undertones; while the upbeat “Nacho Sunset”, embellished by stunningly clear, lilting guitar work and gentle violin, has a relaxed, almost Latin feel. Though the album’s sound is mostly driven by the flawlessly intricate interplay between Rea’s distinctive guitar and Allen’s versatile violin lyrical and assertive in turns, none of the other instruments is confined to a mere supporting role, and each of them contributes in keeping the sonic texture tight. An excellent example of this is album closer (and personal favourite) “Middlebräu”: after a funky first half, propelled by magnificent bass and drums (very much in classic jazz-rock vein),  a pause signals an abrupt change of pace, and the beginning of a simply magnificent, almost slo-mo coda featuring an intense, meditative guitar solo (the closest Rea comes to a traditional rock solo).

When Moraine performed at NEARfest, their lineup had changed, with obvious consequences for their sound. Ruth Davidson and Jay Jaskot had moved away from Seattle, and been replaced by  drummer Stephen T Cavit (also an award-winning composer of film and TV scores), and woodwind player Jim DeJoie ( now Alicia Allen’s husband). The switch from cello to woodwinds lent the music a brighter, but also slightly more angular quality, reminiscent of those bands, such as Henry Cow, on the more experimental end of the Canterbury scene. This bodes well for the band’s second album, which is already in the works at the time of writing. In the spring of 2011 Moraine will also embark on a tour of the US East Coast, with dates at the New Jersey Proghouse and the legendary Orion Studios in Baltimore already confirmed. Catch them if you can – they are a very entertaining live act, and Manifest Density qualifies as one of the most promising debut albums of the past decade in the progressive music field.

Links:
http://www.moraineband.com

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TRACKLISTING:
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)

LINEUP:
Willie Oteri – guitars, live loops
Dave Laczko – trumpet, effects

With:
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.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/wd41music

http://www.myspace.com/willieoteri

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TRACKLISTING:
1. …The Launch (0:19)
2. Spyplane (6:19)
3. Waste Management (6:20)
4. Me & My TV (5:52)
5. Dance of the Wild Koba (7:26)
6. The Curse  (7:38)
7. Interlude  (0:40)
8. Redemption (5:55)
9. Everything  (5:52)
10. Zero Hour (6:22)
11. Escape from Rome  (8:05)

LINEUP:
Joe Scatassa – guitar
Dan Asher – bass
Jason Isaac – drums
Seth Moutal – percussion
Matt Iselin – organ, clavinet, el. piano, vocals (3)

With:
Ronnie Cuber – baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Justin Flynn – tenor saxophone
Rafi Malkiel – trombone
Jeff Pierce – trumpets
Rick Trolsen – trombone solo (6)
Mark Teofilo – orchestral percussion (11)
Michael Taylor – vocals (9)

Before I start my review in earnest, a word of warning is needed for the hardcore proggers among my readers:  To Obscurity and Beyond is quite a different beast from what might be conventionally seen as prog. Described by its creators – the New York-by way of-New Orleans outfit Afroskull – as a ‘sonic gumbo’ with ingredients such as Black Sabbath, Funkadelic, Zappa and a generous pinch of jazz influences, this is an album that is exciting, exhilarating and musically impeccable as any canonical progressive rock offering.

To Obscurity and Beyond, released about one year ago after a number of line-up changes and a brief hiatus, follows Afroskull’s 2000 excellent recording debut, Monster for the Masses. A mostly instrumental effort, with only two out of 11 tracks featuring vocals, it possesses enough energy and swing to make you want to dance to it, coupled with the kind of musicianship that makes you want to listen. It is, in some ways, an old-school album, where the accessibility quotient does not come across as contrived in many modern releases, and the technical skill is not used to bludgeon the listener on the head, but rather to convey the musical message in the clearest terms available. The band’s inspiration is rooted in the past – albeit with a thoroughly modern flavour – with influences such as Chicago Transit Authority, Blood Sweat and Tears, Colosseum, and, of course Funkadelic and Zappa’s more fusion-oriented output. This is the kind of disc that a band like the Red Hot Chili Peppers might have produced if they had not turned to more lucrative pursuits.

A quintet augmented by a horn section (brilliantly dubbed “The Horns of Doom”), plus a number of guest musicians, Afroskull sound like a mini-orchestra, their music well-rounded and multi-dimensional. Going very much against the grain of this age where programmed drums and all kinds of digital equipment seem to hold sway, the band employ real instruments, in the finest rock tradition, which results in a genuinely warm, expressive sound. Next to the chilly though formally impeccable mood evidenced by so many current releases, listening to  To Obscurity and Beyond might be compared to the sheer comfort offered by an old-fashioned, home-cooked meal.

Muscular and compelling, Afroskull’s music is also capable of subtlety. Though, at a superficial glance, it may sound like a good-time, shake-your-butt album, there is a lot of variation on To Obscurity and Beyond, as a careful listen of individual tracks will reveal. While the album opens with the funky pyrotechnics of  “Spyplane”, the band show their more restrained side in tracks like the aptly-titled, slow-burning “Redemption”, with the pace slowing down to an almost Sabbathian plod in the ominous “The Curse”.  Gritty guitar riffs and scintillating solos, courtesy of mainman Joe Scatassa, spar with the powerful blaring of the horns and the smooth yet understated presence of the keyboards, powered by Jason Isaac’s and Seth Moutal’s stellar percussive work and Dan Asher’s relentless bass lines. “Waste Management” and “Everything”, the only two vocal tracks, blend bluesy, soulful vocal performances  – respectively by keyboardist Matt Iselin (somewhat reminiscent of a less histrionic Chris Farlowe) and guest singer Michael Taylor – with irresistible funky rhythms, fiery guitar licks and triumphant horns. The album ends with a bang, with the highly cinematic “Escape from Rome” – an 8-minute tour-de-force veering from the almost free-jazz opening to the intense, martial pace of the main body of the track, in which all the instruments take their turn in creating a hypnotic, powerful texture.

A stunning collection of flawlessly penned tunes, supported by incredible musicianship and a sense of genuine enjoyment, To Obscurity and Beyond definitely deserves to be tagged as one of the outstanding releases of the past year, and possibly of the whole decade. This is an album the likes of which is all too rarely seen in the current music world, and one that will appeal to most self-respecting fans of great rock music – especially those who do not believe that great grooves and interesting musical structures are mutually exclusive. Even if prog purists may find the album a bit too funky for comfort, many discerning listeners are bound to appreciate the marriage of boundless energy and disciplined musicianship featured on To Obscurity and Beyond – as well as its ebullient, unabashedly crossover appeal. Hopefully Afroskull  will not make its many fans wait another nine years for their next release, even if this one was definitely worth the wait.

 

Links:
http://www.afroskull.com

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Three Views From Chicheng Precipice (after Bai Yuyi) (9:52)
2. Tangabata (15:52)
3. Kan Hai De Re Zi  (Days by the Sea) (3:44)
4. Aviariations on “A Hundred Birds Serenade the Phoenix” (6:48)
5. Bagua  (Eight Trigrams) (10:41)

LINEUP:
Dennis Rea electric and resonator guitars, melodica, Naxi jaw harp, kalimba, dan bau (Vietnamese monochord)
Alicia Allenviolin (1, 3)
Greg Campbell drums, percussion (2)
Ruth Davidson cello (1, 3)
James DeJoie bass flute, bamboo flute, bass clarinet (2)
Caterina De Re voice (4)
Stuart Dempster trombone, conch shell (2)
Will Dowd – drums, percussion (1)
Elizabeth Falconer koto (5)
John Falconer shakuhachi (5)
Jay Jaskot drums (3)
Paul Kikuchi percussion (5)
Kevin Millard baliset (3)

In spite of China’s venerable musical tradition, very few people outside the ‘Asian studies’ circles are aware the authentic musical heritage of the Far East, unless it is in the most superficial of terms. Mentions of Chinese music might conjure, at least to the uninitiated, memories of the cheesy (when not downright ghastly) ‘sonic wallpaper’ that will accompany a meal in most Chinese restaurants of the Western world. However, I am happy to report that Views from Chicheng Precipice – the first recording effort solely credited to Seattle-based guitarist and composer Dennis Rea, a true veteran of the progressive music scene of the US Pacific Northwest – is light years removed from any such kitschy scenario.

Those who are familiar with Rea’s current main projects, the eclectic art-rock of Moraine and the improvisational jazz-rock of Iron Kim Style, will probably find themselves somewhat puzzled by this album – which, on the other hand, provides further proof of the guitarist’s broad horizons and dedication to the pursuit of creative musical avenues. While world music may be all the rage in a some circles, it is nevertheless not easy to find artists that approach the tradition of a country as distant (both literally and metaphorically) as China with such rigorously philological spirit as Rea manages to do – informed by his first-hand, in-depth knowledge of the musical and cultural background of both China and Taiwan, where he spent the years between 1989 and 1993.

Recorded between 2006 and 2008, Views from Chicheng Precipice sees the participation of members of both Moraine and Iron Kim Style, as well as other musicians from the Seattle scene, such as Japanese music specialists Elizabeth and John Falconer, and trombone master Stuart Dempster. Running at under 50 minutes, the album features five tracks presenting different facets of the Chinese musical heritage, seen through the eyes of a Western artist in a respectful yet uniquely personal way. Indeed, four out of five numbers (the sole exception being the title-track) are traditional compositions arranged by Rea so as to preserve their spirit even when reinterpreting their form.

Out of those five tracks, the East-West collision of “Days by the Sea” might almost be described as a pop song of sorts (also on account of its markedly shorter running time). Rea’s guitar weaves a tune that, while respectful to the original, incorporates elements of African-American blues, sparring with Alicia Allen’s violin in a stunning dialogue that brought to my mind Rea’s work with Moraine. The title-track, on the other hand, is built around three pentatonic motifs that comprise an original sonic triptych, with a recurring theme and plenty of scope left for improvisations. The composition was performed by Moraine during their performance at NEARfest 2010, though not many members of the audience were able to grasp its sheer elegance and grace in a live setting. Here the triptych comes across in all its understated power, the seamless flow of the music evoking the beauty of the titular mountain landscape (Qingcheng Mountain is the site of a Daoist sanctuary in China’s Sichuan Province). Rea’s guitar converses smoothly with Allen’s violin, while a drum-led improvisation adds a free-jazz touch to the central part of the composition.

The remaining three numbers are of a distinctly more challenging nature, since each of them develops in a fashion that is definitely less attuned to the Western ear. The 15-minute “Tangabata” and the 10-minute “Bagua” both have their roots in ceremonial music, as borne out by their stately, measured pace. The latter makes use of traditional Japanese instruments such as the koto and the shakuhachi (a bamboo flute), supported by solemn yet dramatic percussion work in the creation of a gently meditative mood. “Tangabata”, though a far from accessible piece, might be called the real highlight of the album. While featuring a distinctly Western-flavoured, free-jazz improv section at its very end, most of the composition remains faithful to its ancient origins – a sparse melody of austere beauty, almost suspended in time, made of deep, echoing sounds occasionally brightened by chiming bells. Finally, in “Aviariations on A Hundred Birds Serenade the Phoenix” (whose gently punning title reflects Rea’s ever-present sense of humour) the Chinese oboe traditionally used in the titular piece is replaced by Caterina De Re’s piercing vocal acrobatics, mimicking birdsong in a performance that brings together contemporary Western academic music and Chinese opera. Rea plays guitar and kalimba, whose sounds almost merge with De Re’s impossibly high notes.

Miles away from any tawdrily commercial ‘world music’ recreations, Views from Chicheng Precipice is, as Rea himself puts it, a love letter to the country where he spent four years of his life, an experience that was essential for his development as a musician. A refined, understated listen, it is an album made of subtle contrasts of light and shade, and as such needs to be approached with respect and concentration. The music possesses the delicate, almost brittle beauty of Far Eastern art, in stark contrast with the ‘in-your-face’ nature of much that is fashionable in this day and age. Being such an unabashed labour of love, imbued with profound feelings towards the country and its culture, sets it head and shoulders above the many blatantly contrived releases flooding the current music market. Those who will find themselves intrigued by the album could do much worse than get hold of a copy of Dennis’ book Live at the Forbidden City, a thoroughly enjoyable, extremely well-written account of his years in China and Taiwan – and a perfect companion to this disc. A special mention is also deserved by the stunningly minimalistic cover artwork and detailed liner notes – a simple yet classy package for an album that everyone with an interest in world music should check out.

Link:
http://www.dennisrea.com

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Tracklisting:

1. Sequenze e frequenze (16:22)
2. Aries (5:26)
3. Aria di rivoluzione (5:01)
4. Da Oriente ad Occidente (6:32)

Lineup:

Franco Battiato – lead vocals, VCS 3, guitar, piano, calimba
Gianfranco D’Adda – percussion
Gianni Bedori –  tenor sax (2)
Jane Robertson – violoncello (3)
Daniele Cavallanti – clarinet, soprano sax (3)
Gaetano Galli – oboe (4)
Rossella Conz – soprano (1)
Jutta Nienhaus – recitative vocals (3), soprano (1, 4)

After two reviews of English-language albums, I thought it was time for me to introduce one of the greatest artists on the Italian scene – a musician that, while still relatively obscure in English-speaking countries,  has quite a strong following all over Europe.

Possibly the most eclectic, innovative artist on the Italian pop/rock scene, Sicilian-born Franco Battiato, like many of his contemporaries, started his long career in the early Seventies, when Italy was swept by a wave of musical creativity inspired by the British progressive rock movement, though only partly rooted in it. The ancient island of Sicily possesses a rich cultural tradition, where north and south, east and west comfortably meet and influence each other, and Battiato’s music is the living embodiment of this archetypal ‘melting pot’. Even his poppier Eighties songs are brimming with references to the heady exoticism of the Middle East and India, or the melancholy, decadent milieu of Central Europe before WWI. Similarly, he is not averse to using foreign languages in his lyrics, or even his native Sicilian dialect (which, like every other Italian dialect, was once a full-fledged language). His erudite, thought-provoking lyrics draw upon a vast body of knowledge, not solely limited to the western world. Philosophy, mythology, religion, literature, art, all is fair game for Battiato, the man who brought multiculturalism to Italy way before  the current wave of immigration had even begun.

Released in 1973, at the height of the popularity of progressive rock in Italy and elsewhere, Sulle corde di Aries is in every way a quantum leap from Battiato’s first two albums, the still rather immature Fetus and the more accomplished Pollution. Even if for today’s standards it is a very short recording (a bit over 30 minutes in length), its four tracks pack an aural and emotional wallop that most of the much longer offerings released nowadays can only dream of achieving. The 16-minute-plus, electronic tour-de-force  Sequenze e frequenze opens with haunting strains of synths and wind instruments, which only hint at what is to come. Then Battiato’s filtered voice kicks in, a voice miles away from the big, dramatic vocals often associated with Italian prog. Somewhat thin and reedy, with a heavy Sicilian accent, it is however perfectly, exquisitely modulated, and strongly redolent of the Middle East – almost reminiscent of a muezzin’s call. The short lyrics are incredibly evocative in a visual sense, so that when he sings “ogni tanto passava una nave” (every now and then a ship passed), in my mind’s eye I can almost see a ship slowly moving over the horizon in a hazy summer’s day.  When the singing finally fades away, the track turns into an orgy of eerie, trippy sounds wrung out of a VC3 S, overlaid by the hypnotic, lilting beat of a kalimba – and almost nothing else. It is all very simple, even minimalistic, but at the same time extremely powerful, in a way that so much electronic music can rarely achieve.

Introducing what used to be the B-side of the album, Aries is a mostly instrumental track with a definite avant-garde vibe, featuring harsh saxophone and galloping percussion beats. An excellent piece of music indeed, but in my opinion not as successful as the remaining two tracks, where Battiato’s distinctive singing style is pushed to the fore. Aria di rivoluzione paints a picture of Europe in the years between the two world wars – the Italian lyrics reference the Abyssinian war, while the German ones  (courtesy of Wolf Biermann, spoken by Analogy’s Jutta Nienhaus in a tone that hovers between martial and sensual) mention Hitler and Stalin. The juxtaposition of two such different languages, of the singing and the spoken word (a strategy that Battiato would further pursue in his career), adds depth and interest to what is the most melodic offering on the album. Finally, Da Oriente a Occidente seems to foreshadow the increasing influence of  world music in more recent times, with Battiato’s chanting vocals skillfully backed by two sopranos, and a beautiful, mandolin-led coda.

I saw Battiato performing live in the early Eighties, when he was on his way to his major commercial breakthrough. I entered the theatre as a sceptic, and came out as a convert. This unique musician, who brought a genuine breath of fresh air to the staid Italian pop scene, showed that there was a whole musical world to be explored beyond the established traditions of the opera and the canzone. Years after, I introduced my all-American husband to Battiato’s music, and am happy to say that this album has become one of his desert island discs.

Sulle corde di Aries is undoubtedly one of the great masterpieces of Italian prog, and one of the still-undiscovered gems of progressive rock. Even if the album may not be easy to find for people outside Europe, I hope this review  will encourage more people to delve into the music of this amazing artist – as well as dispel any preconceived notions about the supposedly sickly-sweet, mock-classical nature of Italian progressive rock.

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