Wednesday, 21 June 2017

COPS, PIN-UPS AND MANIACS

Strato's is a musical project based in Parma that came to life in 2015 when five young musicians in love with the music and atmospheres of the Italian B-movies of the seventies joined their forces to play covers taken from the soundtracks of those films and original pieces inspired by artists such as Ennio Morricone, Franco Micalizzi, Piero Piccioni, Bruno Nicolai, Riz Ortolani, Goblin, Osanna, Carlo Rustichelli, Frizzi-Bixio-Tempera, Calibro 35 and others. The name of the band refers to The Lancia Stratos, a sports car and rally car very popular and successful in the seventies and the line up features Leonardo Barbieri (electric and acoustic guitar), Marco Mainardi (bass), Davide Sandrini (drums), Emanuele Nidi (electric organ, string machine, piano), Luis Pezzoli (percussion). After a good live activity on the local scene, in 2016 they released an interesting debut album on Retro Vox Records entitled Lo sbirro, la liceale, il maniaco (The cop, the high-school girl, the maniac), a tribute to the Italian cinema di genere of the seventies, in particular to poliziotteschi, sexy comedies and thriller/horror B-movies as suggested by the beautiful art cover by Matteo Xulli.


The album is divided in three parts, each one with three tracks. The first three tracks were inspired by the Italian crime films full of action, car chases and gunfights also known as poliziotteschi. The opener, "La Soffiata" (The leak) features some excerpts of dialogues taken from the film Roma a mano armata (The Tough Ones) directed by Umberto Lenzi. It starts with the call of an informer to the police. Pulsing bass lines pump tension and adrenaline... Then the rhythm rises swinging from frenzied funky rides to more calm, reflective moments. The following "Western metropolitano" (Metropolitan Western) and "Irruzione a Monteverde" (Irruption in Monteverde) are in the same vein and you can imagine bloody scenes and breathtaking chases through the streets of Rome or Milan...


The second part is dedicated to sexy comedy and the atmosphere are more relaxed. "Apertitivo" (Appetizer) is introduced by an excerpt from the film A tutte le auto della polizia (Calling All Police Cars), directed in 1975 by Mario Caiano. The atmosphere is suggestive and relaxed with a touch of mystery in the background. A short excerpt taken from the advertisement of an Italian beer leads to the light-hearted "Un goffo pretendente" (A clumsy pretender) featuring a lively beat and funny melodic lines played by Luca Cristofori on kazoo. "Rossella" (featuring the seducing vocals of the guest Rossella Finardi) closes the trilogy dedicated to eros and drives us to thanatos...

Strato's 2016

The last part of the album is dedicated to the dark, tense atmospheres of the Italian horror/thriller films made famous by directors such as Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci. "Chipsiomega" is a clear tribute to Dario Argento's film Profond Rosso (Deep Red) and to its soundtrack by Goblin. In fact, Chipsiomega was the temporary title of Profondo Rosso... This piece is an authentic ride through recurrent nightmares and hidden fears and features also some excerpts from the film Solamente Nero (The Bloodstained Shadow) directed by Antonio Bido in 1978. The disquieting "Delirio paranoide" (Paranoid delirium) and the melancholic closer "Titoli di coda" (Credits) complete the scene full of wild energy and delicate surprises.

On the whole, a very good album that is really worth listening to.

You can listen to the complete album HERE


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Sunday, 18 June 2017

RIVERS AND CASTLES

Ellesmere is mainly the brainchild of Roberto Vitelli, bass and guitar player from the Roman prog band Taproban. In 2014 he gathered around him some prestigious guest musicians to play his compositions and in 2015 released an interesting debut album on AMS Records. It's entitled Les Châteaux de la Loire and it's a charming work where acoustic, pastoral atmospheres prevail. The line up features Roberto Vitelli (Takamine 6 strings classic, Eko Ranger 12 strings, Fender "Geddy Lee" jazz bass, Fender Stratocaster, E-Bow, Moog Taurus III), John Hackett (flute), Anthony Phillips (narrative vocals), Daniele Pomo (drums, percussions), Luciano Regoli (vocals), Giulia Nuti (violin, viola), Pietro Horvath (cello), Linda Giuntini (horn), Fabio Bonuglia (Mellotron M 400, Moog Model D, keyboards), Paolo Carnelli (electric piano, keyboards, acoustic piano), Danilo Mintrone (strings arrangement) and Dario Esposito (drums).

Roberto Vitelli during the recording sessions

The main course of the album is the title track, a wonderful, dreamy thirty-eight minute suite divided into eleven parts. It was inspired to Roberto Vitelli by a holiday he spent in France and starts with the narrative vocals provided by former Genesis member Anthony Phillips who reads some verses taken from Lines Written On Visiting The Châteaux On The Loire, a poem by Alfred Austin. Just close your eyes and let the music flow and show you some pondering pictures of the vast panorama of the past... In fact, the Loire Valley is studded with over a thousand châteaux, each with distinct architectural characteristics covering a wide range of variations, from the early medieval to the late Renaissance periods. 


Some sections of the suite are dedicated to some specific castles, amazing monuments of heart and mind such as Sully-sur-Loire, Meung-sur-Loire, Blois, Chambord and Chaumont-sur-Loire while the other sections mark the passages from one place to another as thoughts and feelings get mixed in an intermittent dream, cradled by the river waters. No need for words: except the narrative vocals that open and close the suite there are no lyrics and even the beautiful voice of Luciano Regoli is used here just as an instrument to add colours and emotions. By the way, Luciano Regoli (singer from Raccomandata con Ricevuta di Ritorno, Samadhi, DGM) is also a talented painter and took charge of the wonderful art cover that probably depicts the atmosphere of this album better than all my words...


The last two pieces are credited as bonus tracks but they are not fillers at all. The mysterious, dark "The Ancient Samovar" tells in music and words about the almost magic power of an ancient samovar, a heated metal container traditionally used to heat and boil water in and around Russia as well as in other countries. Thanks to the thaumaturgic properties of its tea you can relax even in a silent, troubled night, waiting for the sun with a renewed feeling of hope... The closer "Wintry Afternoon" is a beautiful, melancholic instrumental track with the notes of an acoustic piano in the forefront the the sound of the wind in the background.


On the whole a very good album!

Ellesmere: Les Châteaux de la Loire (2015). Other opinions:
Thomas Szirmay: The music is highly atmospheric, gentle and sweet background music that has no pretensions other than to deliver sumptuous melodies, played with restrained passion and obvious enjoyment... (read he complete review HERE)

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Thursday, 15 June 2017

MOTHERS AND INVENTIONS

So Does Your Mother come from Rome and have been active on the local scene since 2009. The aim of the band is mixing the complexity of progressive rock with the simpler rhythms and glamorous atmospheres of disco music. In 2013, after many line up changes, So Does Your Mother self released a studio EP entitled Fac(e)ing the Animals and in 2015, after a long, hard work with producer Marco Molteni, they finally released their first full length album, Neighbours. The line up features Lorenzo Sidoti (guitar), Vladimiro Sbacco (keyboards), Gian Maria Camponeschi (bass), Alessio Zappa (drums), Francesco Antonini (flute, vocals), Letizia Lenzi (clarinet), Carmine Di Lauro (sax), Francesca Faraglia (vocals), Domitilla Masi (vocals) and Maria Onori (vocals) but during the recording session they were helped also by some guests such as Isaac "Ike" Willis, an American vocalist and guitarist who was a regular member of Frank Zappa's studio and touring bands from 1978 to 1988, and vocalist Ghita Casadei. The artwork by the well-known street artist Mr. Thoms describes in some way the theatrical and ironic musical approach of the band...


The opener, "Mitile Milite" is a lively track with surreal lyrics sung in ancient Latin. It starts softly, with the dark notes of a clarinet, then the rhythm rises and the mood changes mixing funk and folksy flute passages à la Jethro Tull. Then comes the sarcastic "M.D." (festuring the guest Ike Willis) that depicts in music and words a greedy, unscrupulous manager exploiting new bands trying to make them play for free.

Next comes "Swallow", a ferocious attack to the distorted use of social media where everyone can vomit words and trash online while the suggestive "Modern Seducer" is a surreal portrait of a stripper man under the lights of a discotheque, a very peculiar exotic dancer crawling almost naked on the floor for the amusement of women...


"Under the Roof" is a tense piece in seventies style. Here the atmosphere could recall the scene of a thriller film score where spiders and scorpions are moving under the roof... It leads to the funny, irreverent funk of "Your Mother". The following "Red Leaf" is a short, surreal track about the life of a very peculiar character watching TV on a bumble bee with sax and slapping bass lines in the forefront. "Modern Seducer Reprise" closes the album with a different, more relaxed version of the fourth track.

On the whole a funny, interesting album where the band showcase good musicianship and excellent song-writing skills.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

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