Friday, 30 November 2012

MARBLES IN THE SAND

The RedZen began life in Milan in 2009 on the initiative Roberto Leoni (drums), Ettore Salati (guitars) and Marco Schembri (bass), three former members of The Watch. After some jam-sessions as a trio, keyboardist Angelo Racz joined the party while some months later Marco Schembri left the band and was replaced by another experienced bassist, Nicola Della Pepa. In 2011 with this line up the band released their debut album, “Void”, on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records. Well, first of all I have to say that the overall sound of The RedZen is quite different from The Watch, a band that nowadays sounds even “more Genesis than Genesis”. In some way all the tracks are the fruit of a collective work and of long jam sessions, the influences of the musicians range from jazz to metal, from fusion to progressive rock and the final result is a tasteful, colourful musical cocktail where all these ingredients are mixed together.


The artwork by Alessia Giangrande depicts an exotic landscape and a cluster of gigantic marbles in the sand. In my opinion it sets the atmosphere for the opener “Cluster”, a lively track with the keyboards in the forefront where you can imagine an hypnotic celebration of the nature with a light bird flying high and making evolutions in the air.


With the following “Hot Wine” the party goes on, the rhythm takes off and you can imagine a beautiful woman from Tokyo dancing in a deep purple dress among the tables of crowded venue while the band is jamming. “Slapdash Dance” is in the same vein, with a touch of Oriental mysticism and bright colours. Next comes “Alexa In The Cage”, in my opinion the weakest track on the album. It was previously included in the "Dante's Paradiso" compilation released in 2010 by Colossus/Musea and features the vocals of the guest Joe Sal with English lyrics about a troubled relationship.


The excellent “Into The Void” begins softly, the atmosphere is dreamy and the music leads you on a long trip through time and space. Then the ambiguous “Who's Bisex” takes you back on earth with its frenzied, swinging pace and pulsing bass lines. The following “Return To Kolkata” begins with the sound of a sitar and evokes a long journey to India full of surprises and dramatic musical landscapes. On the next “Spin The Wheel” there's a sound of hooters in the background and an electric guitar arpeggio suggesting fiery, infernal developments with the hell's bells ready to ring. An instrumental version of the aforementioned “Alexa In The Cage” concludes the album. On the whole a very interesting work from a band with a great potential!

The RedZen: Void (2011). Other opinions:
Olav Martin Bjørnsen: Those who like instrumental progressive rock that covers relatively vast ground in terms of expression, are able to appreciate and enjoy fluent compositions with a strong improvised feel, and like their music to be fairly challenging yet accessible should find this band and their debut album to be a fascinating acquaintance, well worth exploring. A fine initial effort by a talented band, and one I hope we will hear more from in years to come... (read the complete review HERE)
Jordan Blum: Void suffers from problems that are all too common in the genre today—namely, that while the musicianship is impressive, there isn't any newness to it. So much of Void sounds the same onto itself—not to mention quite similar to countless other artists in the field—that the tracks have almost no individuality... (read the complete review HERE)

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Thursday, 29 November 2012

SWEET FEELINGS


Delirium began life in Genoa in the late sixties under the name I Saggittari. In 1970 they changed their name and in 1971 they released “Dolce acqua” (Sweet water) with a line-up featuring Ivano Fossati (vocals, flute, acoustic guitar), Mimmo Di Martino (guitar, vocals), Ettore Vigo (keyboards, vocals), Marcello Reale (bass, vocals) and Peppino Di Santo (drums, percussion, vocals). Well, this is the first Delirium album but for many people this is most of all the first album by Ivano Fossati, Delirium’s singer, guitarist and flutist who left the band after this work and is now one of the most influential and successful Italian singer-songwriters. Anyway, “Dolce acqua” is an amazing work. It’s a kind of concept album about human feelings and the music is a beautiful mix of progressive, folk, jazz, classical influences and poetry...

Delirium 1971

The delicate opener “Preludio” is about “Fear” (Paura) and it’s a dreamy ballad with the vocals of Ivano Fossati and Mimmo Di Martino that interact very well. Just the sound of the flute, then an acoustic guitar comes in... “White houses kissed by a sun without light / Strange sun / Cosmic trains set off and don’t come back anymore / From that sun... Hot shadows are burning the air above us / From that sun / Cold hands are opening from our ruins / To that sun / Fear runs inside me since I know / What will remain of us is nothing but a bonfire... Spring, if you ever pass around here / You will bring with you a little part of me...”.


Then the rhythm rises with the following “Movimento I”, a track about “Selfishness” (Egoismo)... “I haven’t got a father / I haven’t got a mother / In my life I never loved anyone but me...”. Next comes “Movimento II”. It’s a track about “Doubt” (Dubbio) and it’s another ballad featuring poetic lyrics and a classically inspired outro... “All the dark from the past, the uncertainty of the future / There are a thousand years inside me now / Fear of dying, a great desire to love / Days and days wondering why / Of course, it’s better not to think / I’ll have time to seek / Perhaps it’s better not to know / Not to feel, not to see, not to seek... I’ll have time to know and maybe to understand better... I’ll be alone facing myself / I’ll shout that’s it right to love / I will try to start again / I will be free to go, to understand, to feel, to speak, to steal / I’ll have time to die, to die a little bit more...”. The instrumental, jazzy “To Satchmo, Bird and other unforgettable friends” concludes side A of the original album and represents “Pain” (Dolore).


Side two begins with the brilliant instrumental “Sequenza I e II”, about “Hypocrisy and Truth” (Ipocrisia – Verità), introduced by an acoustic rhythm guitar with a catchy melody that melts into a weird jazzy sound after a short drum solo break... The following track “Johnnie Sayre” is a delicate ballad with an interesting instrumental passage and changes in rhythm. It’s about “Forgiveness” (Perdono) and the lyrics are an adaptation of Edgar Lee Masters’ poem Johnnie Sayre from the Spoon River Anthology: “Father, thou canst never know / The anguish that smote my heart / For my disobedience, the moment I felt / The remorseless wheel of the engine / Sink into the crying flesh of my leg / As they carried me to the home of widow Morris / I could see the school-house in the valley / To which I played truant to steal rides upon the trains / I prayed to live until I could ask your forgiveness / And then your tears, your broken words of comfort! / From the solace of that hour I have gained infinite happiness / Thou wert wise to chisel for me: / Taken from the evil to come”. Well, sometimes I think that poetry is music and vice-versa...


The following “Favola o storia del lago di Kriss” (Fable or story of Kriss Lake) is about “Freedom” (Libertà). It’s an amazing acoustic ballad and the lyrics speak of a lake that would like to go out from its shore to explore the world of men. In a clear full-moon night a shadow passes across the warm waters of Kriss Lake. From the lake a voice soars... “Oh you who can walk on the water / Please stay here and have a talk with me...”. The shadow stops and listens to the voice... “Speak then great Kriss Lake”! “I’ve been between these banks for a thousand years / I can’t see anything but the trees around me... Please, let me see the world, the men and the women and the deepest sea / The farther lands that I’ll discover / The most dazzling light that I’ll see... And I entrust you my prayer...”. In the warm night the shadow answers with the voice of the wind... “Old lake you don’t know what you want! / You’ve been for a thousand years between these banks / The world is not as you fancy it / It would swallow the deepest sea / The farther lands are burning / You can see every day the most dazzling light / It’s peace what you feel around you...”. As the moon goes down on Kriss Lake the shadow melts in the dark and silence comes back on the waters of Kriss Lake...


The final track “Dolce acqua” (Sweet water) is about “Hope” (Speranza). It’s almost completely instrumental and features a beautiful melody introduced by flute and a “crescendo” with a good vocals and piano work... “Green lawn inside me / The storm isn’t gone yet / But I can see sweet water...”. Well, in my opinion the last is perhaps the best track of the album!

On the CD version there’s also a bonus track, “Jesahel” that was released as a single in 1972 (a very successful one indeed) and didn’t appear on the original version of the album. It is the band’s best known song but it has nothing to do with the concept of an album that is one of most interesting in the progressive scene of the early seventies in Italy. By the way, if you like this album I suggest checking out some of the solo works by Ivano Fossati (for instance “La pianta del tè”, “Macramé” or “L’arcangelo”); although they’re not exactly prog I think Fossati’s music is really worth listening to...

More info about the band:

Wednesday, 28 November 2012



Florence Plays Prog

January 11, 2013

Il Tempio delle Clessidre + Goad + Spettri + Le Porte Non Aperte

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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

MODERN ARCHAEOLOGY

La Maschera di Cera began life in Genoa in 2001 with a line up featuring Fabio Zuffanti (bass, acoustic guitar), Agostino Macor (piano, organ, mellotron, moog, harpsichord, synthesizer), Marco Cavani (drums, percussion), Alessandro Corvaglia (vocals) and Andrea Monetti (flute). Their aim was to re-discover the sounds and the dreamy atmospheres of the Italian progressive rock from the early seventies writing new original stuff with a vintage taste. In 2002 La Maschera di Cera released an eponymous debut album on the independent label Mellow Records with a beautiful art cover taken from a drawing by Jean Delville, a Belgian symbolist painter, writer and occultist. It's a concept album built upon a science-fiction plot: under the ruins of an ancient garden an archaeologist discovers a mysterious mask of wax dating back to 10.000 years B.C. Then, in a near catacomb he discovers a coat of armour...

La Maschera di Cera 2002

The opener, “La maschera di cera” (The wax mask) is a long suite divided into six sections. It begins softly, the atmosphere is dreamy and full of mystery... “Face of wax / I saw you in the wide garden / On the day of the beginning / I couldn't hear your voice / But there was something in you that was telling of a thousand hopes...”. The warm voice of Alessandro Corvaglia perfectly interprets the feelings of the protagonist at the astounding discovery of the ancient mask of wax and something magic happens... “Now I'm here / I'm walking on a tightrope suspended on the void / I can't go on...”. In the second part the rhythm rises, there's tension in the air. There's a kind of empathy between the archaeologist and the mask, he can learn from the mask something about his own life, he can see through it many things but he mistrusts these visions... “Your people wear strange masks / I look at them / I can hear them / I can feel them inside of me...”. The third part is more relaxed, in the dark silence of a catacomb the protagonist discovers a coat of tin armour. As if under a spell he can't wait, he has to step into his visions, in this new world... “I looked at my soul / I couldn't come back...”. The fourth part features an acoustic guitar arpeggio and a dreamy mood, the protagonist has made up his mind and at dusk an unknown peace permeates his heart... “I'm trying to learn / I'm trying to understand...”. Then the rhythm rises again, there are organ rides and fiery flute passages while the mysterious mask becomes the master of a new reality, a guide that the protagonist has to heed and trust to walk along the ways of this unreal dimension... “In your silence I chose something that does not exist / You will show me a new ego, a different world / But different from what?”. On the last part there's a reprise of the initial theme, the protagonist can't go on while burning dreams blend with reality... “I can clearly see your face / Now I know who are you / The future is in your hands...”.


“Del mio mondo che crolla” (Of my world that is crumbling) begins with a nervous, pulsing rhythm section and a swirling flute solo, then the synthesizers bring a sense of an uneasiness. The world of the protagonist is melting and what is left is nothing but the dark game of Death... “Everything has been written / Everything has been told / And I have lost your light...”. He's drawn in a fiery vortex of shadows and lights, he's in a nameless desert now, his heart becomes numb, he can hear the voice of the mask fading out, he does not recognize it any more, he feels like a nocturnal animal trapped in the house of the rising sun... “My wide wings have vanished / I want to see my fate...”.

Jean Delville: Parsifal, 1890 - charcoal drawing

“Del mio abisso e del vuoto" (Of my abyss and of void) is divided into three sections. It begins with bass and flute in the forefront, there's an electric calm all along and you can perceive an impending turn of events. The protagonist looks at the sundown, he can still feel the breath of the mask on him, he feels lost, tired, defeated. He has been looking for that lymph inside himself for years and now realizes that he has burnt his freedom in the wind, crying. On the second section the atmosphere becomes darker and you can imagine figures of bronze dancing in a game of shadows on a lost island while the protagonist falls down in the abyss. Here the female vocals provided by the guest Nadia Girardi add a touch of colour to some passages. Then the rhythm rises and brings back a bit of optimism. Suddenly the protagonist can see that the world is changing, the face of wax has melted and now it is shapeless, he can see a light in the dark, reflected in the eyes of some statues, something is shining down in a deep well and above him in the cosmos. Now he feels weightless and he's able to come back up from the abyss... “Maybe it's late / Maybe I've lost / Please, wait still for me / I can walk / I can see / I can fly...”.


The conclusive "Del mio volo" (Of my flight) begins with a delicate acoustic guitar arpeggio and soaring flute notes... The atmosphere is dreamy and Alessandro Corvaglia's vocals seem to emerge from the early fogs of a September morning. The protagonist has wasted all of his words in pointless speeches, deceived by the flames of a false love but now he's ready for a new start... “A sudden light reveals the truth / I wake up as a little child / In a circle that will never be broken...”. Well, a magnificent album where the lyrics, art work and liner notes provide evocative imagery and the music flows away without weak moments compounding beautiful melodies and complex arrangements. Even if it's a throwback to early seventies Italian progressive rock I think that this work should be a must for every prog lover!

You can listen to the complete album in streaming HERE

La Maschera di Cera: La Maschera di Cera (2002). Other opinions:
Conrad Leviston: The fact that La Maschera di Cera is a retro act that pays obvious homage to a number of classic Italian bands is going to make up a lot of people's mind about this album before they have heard a note. For me, however, it comes down to simple questions: are the references to other bands overdone? Is the quality of songwriting sufficient to support the concept? Fortunately for me, the answers come down as no and yes respectively. For all the allusions to other bands such as Il Balletto di Bronzo, the references tend to be about mood and instrumentation rather than yet another game of "Guess where we stole this riff from." The music also travels comfortably from the heavy, dense and atmospheric to the peaceful, melodic and uplifting... (read the complete review HERE)

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Monday, 26 November 2012

THE LOST ISLAND


Il Balletto di Bronzo began life in Naples the late sixties under the name I Battitori Selvaggi. In 1970 they released a debut album in a psychedelic style, “Sirio 2222”. In 1972 they released what is considered their best album, “Ys”, with a renewed line-up featuring founder members Lino Ajello (guitar) and Gianchi Stinga (drums) along with Vito Manzari (bass) and Gianni Leone (vocals, organ, piano, mellotron, moog, spinetta and celesta). “Ys” is a concept album that was inspired by the legend of a mythical city built on the coast of Brittany and later swallowed up by the ocean. Anyway the lyrics interpret the legend in a very free way. Well, in my opinion the lyrics are not the strength of this work and here vocals are more like an instrument interacting with the band to stir emotions... There are many changes in rhythm, wonderful keyboards and guitar solos, powerful bass lines and drumming. You can find here many influences blended together in a very interesting, personal way, from classical to jazz, from avant-garde to hard rock... Actually, on the first listening you could find “Ys” a little bit boring. Foggy lyrics drawing dreadful images, gloomy vocals, anguish and fear intruding every now and again... There’s definitely a haunting, dark mood hanging over the whole album. If you’re looking for something relaxing probably it’s better to avoid it but if you’re more patient I’m sure that you’ll find that the music is rather good...


The opener “Introduzione” (Introduction) sets the atmosphere. Vocals soar like a dirge from silence, then dark organ chords come in. A supernatural voice tells the last survivor what the “true reality” is and then orders him to set off on a journey to tell everyone what he heard. The play begins... The voice pushes hard in the chest and the last man feels the pain of the things he understood, the pain of the things he experienced... “The poetry of a windy day / The last leaf of a dying tree / The first sunny day in April / A warm body, a hand close to him...”.

“Primo incontro” (First meeting) describes the first part of the journey and a strange meeting. The protagonist keeps on walking, he crosses plains and mountains and goes further and further without turning back. Finally he stumbles on another man... “A man is there with his face turned down / The ivy already covers his body / Black is the blood on the wounds of his torn ears...”. At this point, the mysterious voice compels the survivor to shout out everything he feels is dying inside him. The wind carries away the words and the protagonist becomes deaf...


“Secondo incontro” (Second meeting) starts with vocals “a cappella”. The protagonist is deaf now but he can still see under a clear sky. He can see women in the dark ready to betray or good men dying while evil and powerful ones are rejoicing. The survivor can’t stop and goes further until he meets another man with his arms outstretched on a cross. He gets closer, he can see that in the lightless eyes of the crucified man they nailed some thorns... “He felt the pain of those wounds / Then the light went out...”. Now the protagonist is deaf and blind!

“Terzo incontro” (Third meeting) and “Epilogo” (Epilogue) conclude the album. “Terzo incontro” begins with a powerful, dramatic instrumental part. With his arms stretched out the protagonist, blind and deaf now, tries to find his way until he meets a shape and touches it with his fingers. The mood becomes darker than ever... “With his hands he couldn’t sense anything but the cold of Death / His true word came out from his chest again / But his tired mouth remained motionless / The scream crushed him / It tore him apart / And the darkness around him / Then was inside him...”. And darkness was!


Il Balletto di Bronzo disbanded in 1973 after the release of a single that you can find as a bonus track on the CD version of “Ys”, “La tua casa comoda” (Your comfortable home). In the late nineties Gianni Leone reformed the band with a renewed line-up and recently I had the chance to attend one of their concerts... During the show Gianni Leone (the only original member in the present line-up) said that nowadays he finds progressive rock boring and that probably he wouldn’t release another album like “Ys”. Nevertheless they played the whole album. I didn’t find the performance completely convincing (I missed the guitar since now Il Balletto di Bronzo is a trio with only bass, drums and keyboards), but “Ys” is still the best known work of the band and I realized that almost all the public was there only to listen to it...

You can find a translation of this article into Japanese HERE

More info about the band:



Sunday, 25 November 2012

A PHILOSOPHICAL TRIP

Giorgio Cesare Neri is an Italian prog artist from Genoa, a composer and multi instrumentalist that in the past worked mainly on music for theatre. His debut album, “Logos”, was released in 2009 on the independent label Black Widow. Giorgio Cesare Neri composed, arranged and recorded this work in his home studio playing electric and acoustic guitars, bass, mandola, dulcimer piano, keyboards, sequencer, flute and percussion. Some guests musicians as Roberto Maragliano (drums), Giuseppe Alvaro (vocals), Gian Castello (flute), Roberto Tiranti (vocals) and Vittorio Ristagno (narrative vocals) contributed to enrich the sound. The result is excellent and the album is really worth listen to.

Giorgio Cesare Neri

“Logos” was conceived as a spiritual path, from birth to the final curtain of death, a journey through life with sudden bursts of energy, broken hopes, melancholic feelings, dreams, moments of joy and anguish. Spacey guitars and keyboards can melt in a catholic mass while frenzied rhythms can give way to quiet and reflexive passages where narrative vocals quote passages from philosophical works. Well, probably the nice artwork by Stefano Scagni describes the content of the album better than my words.


The opener “Intro” features a calm, dreamy atmosphere. It leads to “Id & Trad”, identity and tradition, where the rhythm rises with guitars and keyboards in the forefront conjuring up a kind of cosmic trip. When the rhythm cams down you can hear a prayer in Latin... “Pater noster qui es in caelis / Santificetur Nomen Tuum... Amen.”. On the following “Alleanza” (Alliance) the rhythm rises again and your journey can continue. The reflective “Seconda navigazione” (Second navigation) begins with narrative vocals and a quote from Plato's Phaedo reminding that you can cross the sea of life on a raft heading the human reason or on a safer ship trusting in a divine revelation. “Addio” (Farewell) is a short instrumental interlude featuring piano and strings that leads to the lively “Le braccia e le ali” (The arms and the wings). On the short “Guerra” (War) you can hear echoes of war and shootings in the background, then a soaring Gregorian chant and a prayer. “Godinus 7” is a long, complex instrumental in two parts. The first one features an exotic flavour and Oriental smells while the second one is more aggressive.


Next comes “Tuona il cannone” (The cannon is thundering), a beautiful song about the absurdity of war and false morality. A bird of prey takes off in the evening on behalf of the Grim Reaper while tired men have to bear a heavy burden of pain, Death carries out her duties as a scythe during the harvest while the cannon is thundering... Giuseppe Alvaro wrote the lyrics and provided the lead vocals as well. Here Italian melody is blended with Celtic influences. On the following “Per tutti e per nessuno” (For all and for no one) narrative vocals quote a passage from Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra... “Let my pride then fly away with my folly...”. Then comes the long, complex instrumental “L’ultima danza” (The last dance”), one of my favourite tracks on this album, where you can find some echoes of PFM. The calm, dreamy “Sipario” (Curtain) concludes an album without weak moments.

Giorgio Cesare Neri: Logos (2009). Other opinions:
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: Those who wish to explore the current Italian progressive rock scene beyond the more ‘traditional’ symphonic prog bands will definitely find “Logos” an intriguing prospect. Lovers of psychedelic/space rock may also be interested in checking out an album where the more straightforward sounds of the genre are tempered and mellowed by the influence of the Italian musical tradition. Hopefully the album will not remain a one-off, and that GC Neri will continue producing more music of the same high quality... (read the complete review HERE)
Jim Russell: "Logos" has a most curious sound indeed, a combination of appreciations for the classic Italian prog scene mixed into a drive up spacey rock avenues. In fact the two influences are both well represented, there are long droning guitarscapes that will bring Ozric or Karet to mind mixed right in with the classic Italian symphonic sound on other songs. Neri proves himself adept at bringing these two different, wild horses into the same shed and the result is a unique experience... (read the complete review HERE)
Jon Neudorf: Immediately upon playing this CD the 70s psych influence was especially prevalent. To these ears, Pink Floyd and Hawkwind must have been huge influences as well as other artists from that bygone era such as Yes and ELP. This is clear in the symphonic touches spread throughout the CD, although I would say these styles take a back seat to the space-rock vibe... (read the complete review HERE)

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Friday, 23 November 2012

A PENGUIN ON THE RUN

From the book Rock Progressivo Italiano: An introduction ti Italian Progressive Rock

Murple were formed in Rome 1971 on the initiative of two young musicians, drummer Duilio Sorrenti and bass player Mario Garbarino, two very close friends. The band was completed by keyboardist Pier Carlo Zanco, who was studying piano, double bass and composition at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia and by guitarist/singer Pino Santamaria. The name of the band was inspired by an American friend who imagined talking to an invisible penguin. This original idea was also exploited on stage with a gigantic plastic penguin which was inflated during performances and penguin logo placed on the equipment.
 
Murple in the seventies

In 1974 they released their debut work, “Io sono Murple” (I am Murple), a concept album about the feelings of a penguin compelled “to bow and act as a juggler... like a reed bowed by the wind, among the threads of a world of dwarves and clowns that penetrates your bones promising to be faithful without knowing any faith”. Well, I quoted part of the lyrics in an attempt to explain the subject in words while the wonderful album cover tries to explain it in the images.


According to an interview with Pier Carlo Zanco, the album was conceived as a long suite telling the story of a penguin called Murple who is dissatisfied with his life on the ice and begins a fantastic voyage that takes him to a man who fascinates him and has him work in a circus. Obviously this became a negative experience, but in the end he is happy because he got what he wanted, to change his destiny. Well, now all you have to do is close your eyes and listen, because even if the subject is rather strange the music is excellent...

Pier Carlo Zanco in the seventies

Side A begins softly, but after two minutes there’s an interesting drum solo leading to a short rock section with a good interaction between the instruments. “Antartide”, “Metamorfosi” and “Pathos” are tightly bound together, there are many changes in rhythm and moods and no room for boredom in an album where classically inspired patterns blend with rock influences in a personal way and with a great musicianship...


Then, after seven minutes, on “Senza un perché” (Without a reason), over a delicate piano part, shy lead vocals appear... “Poor creature, in the wreckage inside you the prayer rises / It’s sincere but after that you’ll be wishing promised lands, all the great dreams / Without a reason...”. The melodic lines are good but the lead vocals in my opinion are the weak point of the album (actually Murple didn’t have a real singer and the vocal parts were shared between the guitarist Pino Santamaria and the keyboardist Pier Carlo Zanco). After 10:30 an amazing church-like choir introduces the following section “Nessuna scelta” (No choice) with remarkable keyboard patterns in the background... “You will teach me how to bow like a juggler who always says yes / If you want, if you like you’ll change me without telling me what you’re doing / I will be the clay without shape / I can’t make any choice...”. The closing section of side A is the instrumental “Murple Rock” that features a remarkable guitar work...


Side B begins with “Preludio e scherzo”, an amazing classically inspired “solo-piano section”... After 2:55 the lead vocals appear on “Tra i fili” (Among the threads) that was chosen as a single to promote the album (but in my opinion this is not the best moment of this work). After 5:26 a good instrumental “Variazioni in 6/8”, with keyboards in the forefront, reminds me of BMS tracks as “Garofano rosso” or “Fino alla mia porta”. After 7:35 the lead vocals come back for “Fratello” (Brother) and “Un mondo così” (A world like this)... In my opinion on this album the lyrics are not particularly inspired and a little naïve but luckily the vocal parts are short and almost all the sections of the suites also feature interesting instrumental interludes. The final section is the instrumental “Antarplastic” that is just a short reprise of the opener “Antartide”...

You can read about Murple reunion and find out more about this band HERE

Thursday, 22 November 2012

AN UNFORTUNATE BAND

Zabov began life in Bologna in 1991 with a line up featuring Andrea Stagni (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Max Ceschi (bass) and Roberto Coppola (drums). The name of the band was inspired by a famous brand of liquor while their music was in a neo-prog vein with lyrics in English. After some immature demos, in 1995 they recorded a first album with the help of Alberto Piras (Deus Ex Machina) and some guests musicians. Unfortunately the band was not completely satisfied with the final result of the recording sessions and the album was never released.


You can listen to some tracks from Zabov's first unreleased album HERE

During the years two new members joined the band, guitarist Luca Gamberini in 1996 and vocalist Francesco Grande in 2002. One way or another Zabov had been active until 2007, when their experience came to an end after a hard work in studio and just before the release of what should have been their real debut album. As the previous one, it was never released on account of some arguments between the members of the band although it was almost finished.


You can listen to some tracks from Zabov's second unreleased album HERE

After this new disappointment Andrea Stagni, Zabov's main composer, moved on looking for other musicians to form another band and begin a new musical experience. Well, it's a pity that Zabov gave up but you never know, bands can split up and reform and maybe, sooner or later, Zabov's music will finally see the light.

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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

MOONLIGHT SHADOWS

L'Ombra della Sera (the name means “the evening shadow”) comes from Genoa and is a side project of three members of La Maschera di Cera: Fabio Zuffanti (bass), Agostino Macor (keyboards) and Maurizio Di Tollo (drums). Their aim is to recreate the atmospheres and the sounds of some Italian TV dramas from the early seventies but, in fact, the original themes taken from some old scores of that period are just a starting point since the band reinterpret them adding and developing new ideas, moulding and shaping something new with excellent results. In 2012 L'Ombra della Sera released an eponymous album on the independent label AMS/Btf featuring five covers rearranged and enhanced with the help of some guest musicians “undercover”, including the other members of La Maschera di Cera.


The opener “Gamma” was composed by Enrico Simonetti, father of Goblin's leader Claudio Simonetti, and comes from the soundtrack of a TV drama in four episodes of the same name directed by Salvatore Nocita in 1975. It's a sci-fi story set in Paris dealing with some crimes and a brain transplant. The band develop the initial theme with a dark, psychedelic taste and in my opinion the result is surprisingly good.


“La traccia verde” by Berto Pisano is taken from the soundtrack of a TV drama in three episodes of the same name directed by Silvio Maestranzi in 1975. It's a strange crime story mixed with science fiction where a case of murder is solved thanks to the signals emitted by some very particular witnesses, some plants present on the crime scene. It begins softly and the mood is dreamy.


“Ritratto di donna velata” by Riz Ortolani is taken from the soundtrack of a TV drama in five episodes directed by Flaminio Bollani in 1975. It's a mystery story, a noir set in Tuscany where on the opening theme appears the mysterious Etruscan statue called “L'ombra della sera” that gives the name to this project. The original theme here is rearranged with a funky groove pulsing under a veil of mystery. By the way, in the track list on the CD cover there's an inversion between track number three and track number four.


“Il segno del comando (Cento campane)” by Romeo Grano is taken from the soundtrack of a very successful TV drama in five episodes directed by Daniele D'Anza in 1971. It's an esoteric crime story set in Rome with an intriguing screenplay by the writer Giuseppe D'Agata. It features a vocal part that according to the liner notes is provided by Marco Tagliaferri but this is just a pseudonym. Marco Tagliaferri is one of the characters of the TV drama while this piece is sung by La Maschera di Cera's singer Alessandro Corvaglia. In the liner notes you will find also other characters from the TV dramas credited as musicians.


The last track “Ho incontrato un'ombra (A blue shadow)” by Berto Pisano is taken from the soundtrack of a TV drama in four episodes of the same name directed by Daniele D'Anza in 1974. It's a crime story intertwined with mystery and romance where an obscure past haunts the protagonists. The original theme is developed as if in a long jam session with elements of free jazz.

On the whole a very nice album that gives you the chance to plunge back in the past through images and sounds.

You can listen to the complete album in streaming HERE

L'Ombra della Sera: L'Ombra della Sera (2012). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: The five pieces which range in length from four minutes to an 18 minute monster combine that spooky horror movie retro vibe with the refined professionalism of these individuals. They took this project very seriously and the results are evident. Starting with the somewhat campy and spooky-fun soundtrack backbone, which creates a dramatic and very visual feel, they draw on classical, jazz, funk, and rock to arrive at a sophisticated final piece. The moods and pace vary, sometimes sequences are relaxing and melodic with the mellotron and period keys, other times they veer into VDGG styled semi-dissonance with wailing saxophones and tortured sound welling up louder and louder... (read the complete review HERE)

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

THE GIANT OCTOPUS

After a live album in 2007 and some personnel changes, in 2010 Areknamés released “In Case Of Loss...”, their third studio album on Black Widow Records, with a line up featuring Michele Epifani (keyboards, vocals), Antonio Catalano (guitars), Simone Pacelli (bass) and Luca Falsetti (drums). During the recording sessions they were helped by some guest musicians as Carmine Ianieri (sax), Sara Gentile (cello), Pierluigi Mencattini (violin) and Cristiano Pomante (vibraphone) who provided more colours to the musical fabric. The result is excellent, the overall sound is richer and even more personal than in the past, less indebted to Van Der Graaf Generator and in some way jazzier.


The art work features two pictures shot on a beach near St. Agustine, Florida in 1896. They testify the finding of a mysterious whale carcass that was initially supposed to be a giant octopus and that was called the St. Augustine Monster. The opener “Beached” is linked to the art cover, pulsing bass lines and light keyboards waves set a surreal atmosphere. You feel like a giant octopus, a strange creature carried ashore by the tide, lost, dying. People are staring at you in awe on the beach, under a grey, wintry sky... “Why am I dreaming of you? / Scanning through my memories / I can't see anything but that blue vastness...”. The instrumental coda features a nice mix of jazz and psychedelia.


“Alone” features a nice middle section with a good interaction between sax and organ. It's a melancholic piece oscillating between joy and anguish like a “hanged man”. The music drives you to the edge of time and then let you fall down in the blackest sea. Then comes “Dateless Diary”, a calm, reflective track about the need to face reality since painful changes can have positive effects. “Don't Move” begins softly, the atmosphere is dark and dreamy, the music is characterized by some strings passages... If you're of getting lost, don't move!


“A New Song” is one of my favourite tracks on this album. It's about a difficult creative process. At the beginning you're almost lost, trapped by a lack of inspiration, you think that a new song deserves much more... “Energy, thoughts and dreams have to reach someone / Before they fade away amongst white dwarves, stellar remnants and black holes...”. Then tension and rhythm rise with a sudden burst of energy and some fiery organ whirls... “Yesterday I received a new song / Guess who the sender was... Look right here...”. The ethereal “Where” is about the sense of loss that you can experience when you can't find your own way. The truth lies in dark, tangled streets under the moonlight and a sort of grey veil covers your eyes... “I can't figure exactly where I am / If ahead or behind the beat of the Earth...”.


The long, complex suite “The Very Last Number” concludes the album. It describes a momentary escape from reality, a long inner journey through dreams and past memories. The lyrics invite to join the dream but beware!Maybe you could see more than you want to see while clinging ship bells evoke the past... “I was trapped in the ruins of my dreams... In the river of regrets the more you move the more you sink...”. The music features some very interesting passages with a jazz rock touch while in other moments you can perceive strong classical inspirations. Some parts remind me of Arti e Mestieri but it would be unfair compare this excellent track with anything else: all you have to do is close your eyes and listen to it!

Areknamés: In Case Of Loss... (2010). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: "In Case of Loss" is one of 2010's finest prog-rock albums and a must-have for those who love a dark/heavy sound that somehow sounds both modern and retro. It moves Areknames to a new level in my book as one of the bands I will be most excited to follow, to see what else they have in their bag of tricks. I do hope there is more! Bravo to the eight musicians who brought this work to life... (read the complete review HERE).

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Monday, 19 November 2012

IN A DARK ROOM

Areknamés is an interesting band from Pescara (Italy) that was born in 2001 from the ashes of other two bands, Lentofumo and L'arco del Pendolo. The name of the band comes from the title of a Franco Battiato’s song from the album “Pollution” but their main sources of inspiration are not only Italian. Areknamés' eponymous debut album was released in 2003 on the independent label Black Widow Records with a line up featuring multi instrumentalist and composer Michele Epifani (organ, piano, synth, mellotron, harpsichord, guitars, recorder, vocals), Piero Ranalli (bass) and Mino Vitelli (drums, percussion). On it you can perceive all their love for bands such as Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson, Black Widow, Atomic Rooster, Caravan, Balletto di Bronzo, Metamorfosi and many others. The overall sound of the band is compact and with a vintage feeling but, although Areknamés draw abundantly on Seventies classic prog-rock, their music is not completely derivative and you can find here some really good tracks featuring shifting tempos and quirky melodies.


The long opener “A Day Among Four Walls” describes a day that seems a nightmare... “I can't understand, why am I awake? I was on the sun flying with a unicorn... I was happy...”. A man who does not want to wake up, a junky scared by reality... Despair, emptiness, feelings riding on a storm, four walls that protect you from the real world but separate you from the sky. The vocal parts recall Peter Hammill while soaring from some fiery organ passages or hiding in whispers under delicate organ patterns. The following “Wasted Time” is another dark, melancholic track full of pessimism and sad reflections about time passing by. “Down” describes a surreal Sabbath, a meeting with a witch, a descent into an inner darkness... “This is the prayer that rips both my ears / While I'm feeling that soon Satan will be here / Ring the bells for his entrance / Happiness has no more meaning...”.


The crepuscular “Season Of Death” is in the same vein, dark like a black mass in the full moon. It begins softly but calm is only apparent, loneliness drives to madness and to a dangerous land of tears where the grass is cold and the autumn leaves fall on your mind. On the church like organ middle section threatening shadows begin to dance. “Boredom” is nervous, tense and features an exotic flavour with recorders, keyboards and the electric guitar of the guest Simone Colombi in the forefront. There's someone who's swimming ashore, there are some abandoned shoes on the beach and a strong feeling of uneasiness. The charming “Grain Of Sand Lost In The Sea” concludes the album. You can feel regret for betraying the world by ignoring the people who love you... “Now it's the time to look at yourself... Now it's the time to save yourself...”. Well, the mood is rather sad but, despite the particular subject matter of the lyrics, I think that this album deserves a try!


Areknamés: Areknamés (2003). Other opinions:
Vitaly Menshikov: Areknamés is a striking example of the band, which, while being influenced by VDGG, is able not to only to avoid any distinct derivatives, but also to develop the familiar style in a new and, often, very unexpected direction. The connoisseurs of profound Symphonic Progressive, not to mention the lovers of a classic VDGG, shouldn't disregard this release, to say the least... (read the complete review HERE).


The second album by Areknamés, “Love Hate Round Trip”, was released in 2006 with a renewed line up featuring Michele Epifani (organ, piano, synth, mellotron, vocals, recorder), Piero Ranalli (bass), Simone Colombi (guitars) and Simone Antonini (drums). Here the band go further exploring the possibilities of mixing vintage sounds with new ideas. Although you can find some echoes coming from the past, Areknamés are not just a clone of someone else playing by tore and trying to stir nostalgic feelings in their listeners, on the contrary, the song-writing of the leader Michele Epifani is excellent and on this album they seem to have found their own way.

Areknamés 2007

The opener “The Skeletal Landscape Of The World” is a complex, dark thread of images “painted” by the voice of Epifani that recalls Genesis and VDGG. It features aggressive guitar riffs in Black Sabbath style well intertwined with quieter piano and keyboards passages. The second track, “Deceit”, in my opinion is outstanding... “Come to me, I’m ready...”. In the beginning the vocals are enthralling and delicate, soaring upon an ethereal keyboards and acoustic guitar pattern, but all along the more than ten minutes length of this piece there’s room for many surprises and changes in the musical direction.


The music keeps on flowing without weak moments, actually all the tracks are very good, like the sinister and agoraphobic “Outcast”, “La Chambre” (inspired by a Balthus’ painting), “Snails” (a Gnidrolog’s cover), “Yet I Must Be Something”, “Ignis Fatuus”, “Stray Thoughts From A Crossroad”, "A Grotesque Gift", "Someone Lies Here". Actually, there’s no filler till the final “The Web Of Years”. All the compositions, although complex, are perfectly balanced showing great song-writing skills that combine dark symphonic prog with jazz, psychedelia and classical influences.


Probably Areknmées during the session of this album were dreaming to be in the Seventies, but without losing the awareness of the present. Their music is about dreams and nightmares, they’re like painters using notes instead of brushes to draw musical landscapes and images. At length they managed to escape from their “rusty cage of fears” and from the scepticism that surrounded their debut... “There's no more sign of something that makes dreams different from reality / It wasn't me that chose it...” (from “La Chambre”).

Areknamés: Love Hate Round Trip (2006). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: It is a beautiful and moody mélange of vintage keyboard sounds (organ, synth, grand piano, mellotron) stacked with angular guitar brushstrokes, and occasionally poetic lyrics. While not an easy piece of music to digest early on there are rewards here for those who give it some time. I am not with those who find "love hate" to be the best modern Italy has to offer but it is a fascinating album for fans of "night" prog and fans of VDGG style bands... (read the complete review HERE).

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Sunday, 18 November 2012

A GIFT FOR THE UNFORTUNATE CHILDREN

Paolo Siani was the drummer of Nuova Idea, a band from Genoa that released three interesting albums in the early seventies. Nuova Idea disbanded in 1973 and since then Palo Siani has worked as a session man and producer for other artists. In 2008 he started to work on a solo album in a progressive rock style trying to blend vintage sounds and modern technologies. Three other former members of Nuova Idea (Marco Zoccheddu, Ricky Belloni and Giorgio Usai) got involved in the project but during the recording session Paolo Siani was also helped by many other friends such as Mauro Pagani, Roberto Tiranti or Joe Vescovi just to name a few. The result is the excellent “Castles, Wings, Stories & Dreams” that was released in 2010 on the independent label Black Widow Records with a beautiful art cover by the British artist Martin Allen.

Paolo Siani

The short opener “Un dono” (A gift) features narrative vocals and sound effects in the background. The lyrics, in Italian, are taken from a short poem by Mahatma Ghandi... “Take a smile, and give it to someone who never had it / Take a sunbeam, and make it fly there where the night reigns / Discover a wellspring, and make wash those who live in the mud / Take a tear, and put it on the face of someone who never cried / Take the courage and put it in the heart of the ones who don’t know how to fight / Discover life, and tell about it to someone who doesn’t understand it / Take hope, and live in its light / Take goodness and give it to the one who is not able to give / Discover love, and make it known to the world...”.

Martin Allen: The King Is Dead

The short, evocative instrumental “Wizard Intro” leads to the dark, heartfelt “Madre Africa” (Mother Africa) that starts with heavy blues electric guitar riffs in the forefront backed by a powerful rhythm section. As you can guess it's a piece dedicated to Africa, a wonderful, rich continent exploited by merciless, fat merchants where endless tribal wars keep on raging... “Mother Africa, ferocious with women and children / Bribed by filthy assassins / Uproar of dances and drums / Belly of the darkest rituals...”. Roberto Tiranti's lead vocals backed by the soprano Nadia Enghèben and the excellent flute work provided by Mauro Pagani give an exotic, mysterious touch to this piece that ends with an invocation: Mother Africa, you have to protect your children, the most precious treasure of all... “Smiles, perfumes and colours / Defend these immense treasures, Mother Africa”!


“Questa penombra è lenta” (This penumbra is slow) is a calm, reflective track. The evening comes and it's time to think about the past, about the real meaning of a man's life... “Look for a lighthouse, a port, a safe harbour / Follow the light flight of the seagulls... Looking for a man I found God...”. Next comes the lively instrumental “Chimera” featuring an excellent bass work, a good sax solo and some nice electronic effects. Here guitarist Marco Zuccheddu turns out to be an excellent pianist as well!

“The Game” is a long, complex suite divided into four sections: “Wizard Of Your Sky”, “Mickey's”, “Jump” and “Wizard Of Your Life”. It begins softly, the atmosphere is dreamy... “Listen to this music... Strong wind and smell of tide fill the sails... Let's go away, let's fly away...”. Despite the English titles most of the lyrics are in Italian and conjure up a magic world where white horses ride in immense plains and distant comets cross the sky disappearing on the horizon, there are elves and damsels, a fakir and a roundabout... As the music flows away you can listen to a reprise of “Wizard Intro” and to many changes in rhythm and mood... A new life runs into your veins, eventually your heart is full of sounds, colours and lights and you can experience a feeling of peace... “Now listen to your music, go back on your road... Remember me...”.


“Cluster Bombs” is sung in English by Roberto Tiranti and begins with a martial pace. It's a heartfelt complaint against war and the use of cluster bombs... “How many limbs of children / You will need some more / How long, filthy beasts / You will drink young blood...”. Next comes the delicate “This Open Show”. It's another track sung in English and features Alberto Buttarelli on lead vocals and flute. The atmosphere is dreamy, you can float in the air cradled by the magic of music and sounds... “Castles and wings / Stories and dreams / We'll never hold you / So I really hope / You'll like remember / This, this open show...”. The short instrumental “C'era una volta” (Once upon a time) with its fairy tales flavour and Renaissance influences concludes this excellent work. By the way, all the revenues of this album (if there will be any) will go to the Gaslini Children's Hospital in Genoa. One more reason to buy it!

Paolo Siani & Friends feat. Nuova Idea: Castles, Wings, Stories & Dreams (2010). Other opinions:
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: As can be expected, “Castles, Wings, Stories and Dreams” is not particularly innovative, nor does it pretend to be such... I also have some reservations on the choice of mixing Italian and English lyrics. The supposed ‘international appeal’ of English vocals, in my opinion, dilutes that unique quality of Italian prog that is so often connected with the use of such a great vehicle for music as the Italian language. However, in spite of these drawbacks, the album is a solid effort, a fine slice of vintage Italian prog with a thoroughly 21st-century sound quality, and excellent performances all round from Siani and his guest musicians. The album should also appeal to fans of classic hard rock with progressive overtones... (read the complete review HERE)
Jim Russell: "Castles" is a dynamic mix of RPI with a "heavy prog" edge that is sure to please a wide swath of the PA community. It follows the trend of recent returns by RPI veterans in delivering high quality material in the more accessible package that today's prog fan seems interested in. Italy's comeback albums are better than most as the musicians always seem to be into it for the right reasons and that is again the case here-the work exudes a passion for music with an uncompromising respect for the past, held above commercial considerations... (read the complete review HERE)
Assaf Vestin: The production of the album is clear and crisp; one can make out well the instruments and the smaller details in each song. This album was a surprise for me. Boasting a heavy sound with beautiful Hammond organ work and vocals, it contains elements from classic rock bands but also introduces variety into each song. The pieces have great hooks and are quite catchy. As soon as the album ended I wanted to listen to it again. I hope Paolo Siani doesn't stop here and produces another album of this caliber... (read the complete review HERE)

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Monday, 12 November 2012


Paolo Siani & Friends feat. Nuova Idea
+
Psycho Praxis

December 1, 2012

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Sunday, 11 November 2012

A GARDEN OF DREAMS

Il Giardino Onirico (the name means “the oneiric garden”) began life in the province of Viterbo in 2008. The original nucleus was formed by four musicians coming from different musical experiences and with different backgrounds: Emanuele “Vastitas” Telli (keyboards), Stefano Avigliana (guitar), Ettore Mazzarini (bass) and Massimo Moscatelli (drums). In 2009 Dariush Hakim (keyboards, effects) joined the band and with this line up Il Giardino Onirico self-released a first demo EP featuring a long suite titled “Il complesso K”. Later the line up was completed by Marco Marini, poet, painter and photographer who provided the lyrics, the narrative vocals and the art cover for the first full length album of the band, “Perigeo”, that was released in 2012, after a long studio work. According to the band, their aim was to create a “fleeting, schizophrenic fantasy” and conjure up an oneiric dimension where the listener could get lost in a world of dreams and nightmares. In my opinion the result of their efforts is very good!

Il Giardino Onirico in their recording studio

Every track is introduced by a short narrative part that could recall Pholas Dactylus but after awhile the music takes over and all that you have to do is close your eyes and set your imagination free. “There are more and more things around me / Or maybe it's just me who can perceive a changed reality / I can see me transformed, I'm changed / I recognize every lost moment, every faded control...”. I suppose that the title of the opener “B.S.D.” is an acronym for Brain Stem Death (in the booklet there is no explanation of what B.S.D. is for), a clinical syndrome defined by the absence of reflexes with pathways through the brain stem in a deeply comatose, ventilator-dependent, patient. Identification of this state carries a very grave prognosis for survival, cessation of heartbeat often occurring within a few days although it may continue for weeks or even months if intensive support is maintained... The music flows with many changes in mood and rhythm, there are some heavy, aggressive sections and some amazing dreamy passages characterized by the beautiful soprano voice of the guest Elisabetta Marchetti, here used just as an instrument. “Wait a minute and then you'll discover things that can't be described...”.


The following track, “Utopia Planitia”, takes you on a long trip through time and space... “I get a bit closer and I know that I'm alone now / I get rid of discomfort and I change again... I can't realize how much time I have erased / Every resistance vanishes / I set off on a journey that leads me to the limits of reality...”. The pace is slow, the atmosphere is tense and full of expectations, dark organ rides and spacey electric guitar solos make you cross the doors of perception and you can fly over the dark side of the moon... By the way, Utopia Planitia is the name of the largest recognized impact basin on Mars and in the solar system and is the Martian region where the Viking 2 lander touched down on September 3, 1976.

Perigeo: art cover

“Agosto” (August) is brighter, the rhythm rises again but the journey is still full of surprises... “I frequently try but it's stronger than me / I'm biding my time in ambush to destroy the falsity of those gruesome acts that project misery on me...”. Next come the disquieting, restless “Amigdala” evoking greedy joy and criminal fears, incurable sadness and bully vengeance. The amygdalae are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain that perform a primary role in the processing of memory and emotional reactions... “At first it seems unimportant / Then, suddenly it becomes powerful...”.


The ethereal title track, “Perigeo” (Perigee), concludes the album. Back to earth! “The scents of paradise evaporate into the night / Your shadow mirrors on me as if it was not real / A perverse game creeps along the streets that lead nowhere...”. Here the music every now and again recall Alan Parsons Project and the beautiful voice of Elisabetta Marchetti comes back. Well, the perigee is the closest point to the centre of the earth in a satellite's elliptical path and once the satellite has reached that point it leaves again. You left on a long journey and you can't come back, everything has changed, you're living now in a never ending dream and you have lost the touch with reality... “It had to happen, sooner or later / I woke up and I couldn't recognize myself any more...”. Well, now you are ready for another spin!

You can listen to the complete album on YouTube, so have a try! If you like it, you can purchase the physical copy directly from the band.


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