Sunday, 15 June 2014

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN

Elettrosmog began life in Verona in 2003 with a first line up featuring Michele Antonelli (vocals, guitar, flute), Francesco Delli Paoli (bass), Alessandro Pontone (guitar), Massimo Babbi (keyboards), Cristian Maselli (drums) and Alessandro Savelli (bouzuky, banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar). They were clearly influenced by Italian prog bands of the early seventies such as Premiata Forneria Marconi, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Le Orme or Delirium (on their official website you could even find a short history of Rock Progressivo Italiano) but also by hard rock, jazz, blues, reggae and Italian canzone d'autore. After an interesting demo recorded in 2004, they started performing live on the local scene. Later, Alessandro Savelli left the band and in 2006 Elettrosmog self-released their first full length album, “Monologando”. According to the liner notes, it's a concept album dealing with the difficulties that human beings can experience when they have to communicate with each other in different situations. Well, probably the beautiful art cover by Andrea Sbrogiò describes the content of the album better than my words.


The opener “Trappole per topi” (Mousetraps) is a nice track full of obscure energy. The music and lyrics depict a man who's on the verge of folly, a dreamer who desperately search for a shelter from the daily grind. He's surrounded by people he can't understand and who show off a false serenity... “Enough is enough! My head is blowing up / I have to run away from here / A stereophonic madness completes my mania / It reverberates and swings for me...”.

The following “Economania” is a caustic track about the “New Economy”, where money rules and the marketing laws decide what you have to do. So, you have to stop thinking of social ideals, nothing matters but your ego... The new economy ethic becomes a silly and vain vicious circle where men act like marionettes stumbling on the threads of the Euro-autarchy, pushed by ambition and materialism.


Fiore di carta” (Paper flower) is a melancholic, introspective track where the music and lyrics depict a man who gets lost in a labyrinth of madness and who's burning out like a paper flower, stranded and poisoned by a nightmarish solitude. Suicide or hypocrisy can't save his soul...

Dialogo” (Dialogue) is a short acoustic, instrumental interlude that leads to the following “Quanto costa un litro di benzina?” (How much does a litre of gasoline?), an ironic track that blends reggae and Jethro Tull. The music and lyrics tell about a man obsessed by the ever growing cost of oil who decides to buy a bicycle and ride it feeling like Fausto Coppi.

Non è così (Il mio regalo per te)” (It's not so – My present for you) is a complex track featuring many changes in mood and rhythm. It begins softly, the atmosphere is dark, melancholic then the rhythm rises and at some point Focus and Jethro Tull could come to mind. A man realizes that he's adopting ideas that he doesn't share just to get along with his sweetheart and he's getting tired to live as a hypocrite. The breaking up is traumatic, his last present might be mischievous and dishonest... Just his voice recorded on a tape: slow, magnetic words that will take him away forever.

video

The following “Monologo” (Monologue) is a short, delicate instrumental piano solo track that leads to “Compromesso storico” (Historic compromise), a powerful, complex track that draws in music and lyrics the portrait of a cynical politician who's good for every season, a demagogic media metastasis who knows how to use democracy in spite of ethics.

Tu ti senti meno” (You feel less) is another track that describes the crises of a relationship in an effective way. A woman wants too much from his man, but she can't have everything and the game is over and there's no room left for words... The final track “Rootood” is a short instrumental where you can hear a telephone call and the recorded voice of an answering machine. A good conclusion for a very interesting album that in my opinion is really worth listening to.

After the recording sessions bassist Francesco Delli Paoli left the band and Paolo Iemmi stepped in. Unfortunately, the new line up didn't last for long and in 2007 Elettrosmog split up. Anyway, two years later a new band called Astrolabio came to life from Elettrosmog's ashes... But this is another story!


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

MEMORIES AND TRAINS

La soluzione semplice (The simple solution) is the fifth studio album by Sithonia, an Italianprog band from Bologna whose roots date back to the mid-eighties. It was released in 2011 on the independent label Lizard Records, after a long hiatus and a hard studio work, with a line up featuring Paolo Nannetti (organ, Mellotron, synth, backing vocals), Roberto Magni (guitar, mandolin), Oriano Dasasso (piano, synth), Orio Cenacchi (drums), Valerio Roda (bass) and Marco Giovannini (lead and backing vocals). The final result of their efforts is a good mix of vintage atmospheres and new musical flavours and I'm sure that fans of Italian prog will appreciate this concept album about dreams and time passing by, where the music and lyrics draw an imaginary bridge across past and present. But maybe the art work by Roberto Magni describes the content of the album better than my words...


The opener “Treni di passaggio” (Passing trains) begins by some hypnotic piano notes and the noises of a railway station in the background. Then the music and lyrics depict a commuter who is coming home after a working day. All according to routine, it's just another day in his life. But suddenly something happens and you can experience a kind of emotional short circuit: the man has always fought against his dreams but now he realizes that he might be wrong while time is passing by... Then the rhythm rises and whirling waves of vintage keyboards draw him in the past where he gets lost for awhile like a child in a fairy-tale wood. After the instrumental middle section the vocals come back and the atmosphere becomes calmer... The commuter comes out from his dream with a new awareness: now he can accept his dreams and get along with his present life. Now he runs to catch his train, a new day can't separate what we are from what we were or what we had wanted to be... “But we live, it's sure / There's nothing to dream / I’m running fast, there’s a train waiting for...”.

Sithonia 2013

What kind of magic made change the protagonist's mind? The second track, “Tornando” (Coming back), is a beautiful short instrumental that starts with the sound of a tape in reverse. Now you have to set your watch back forty years, you're in a time warp... The following “Cronaca persa” (Lost chronicle) is a long, complex suite divided into six parts that tells about a lost summer full of music, colours and glances towards the sky. An obsessive voice repeats that those days can't come back and that you can't go back in time. Nonetheless there are moments that seem everlasting, imagines that you can't forget, memories that can't melt into the mist of the daily grind and dreams that keep on flying through the clouds of a rainy day... “The music goes, can't you hear it? / It soars through the brambles, it dances among the flowers and then it will remain... It comes from afar and plays with us / It won't go away...”. Those lost days now seem be running along the banks of a river, searching for a bridge to cross it while time is just a face on the water... Now you look in a mirror and see just a stranger, but sometimes memories come back with an overwhelming force and you have the illusion to be back there, just for a last time, just for a last stolen look... “The last time, just a last time / I do not want to ask for more... Nothing can change if you can't change a bit...”.


The short, evocative instrumental “Il tram del topo” (The tram of the mouse) leads to the title track that tells in music and words of a clash between different feelings in front of a difficult choice. The protagonist is now on the edge of an immense abyss and he's going to take a risk that he has never taken before... “I will not be asking from you the simple solution / You will not be the one who will look with me for all the answers we have never asked...”.

The short, delicate instrumental “Passeggiata” (Walk) leads to the conclusive “Il vento di Nauders” (The wind from Nauders), another long, complex track that conjures up the memories of a beautiful day of music and friendship spent in the Alps (Nauders is a lovely place in Austria, near the border with Italy and Swiss). Now the air is redolent of the smell of the woods and you get lost among sweet sounds and warm colours... Then the dream comes to an end, the mist of time disappears and you can listen again to the same hypnotic notes of piano that opened the album. The circle is closed, the protagonist is back to reality on the train that takes him home...

On the whole, I think that this is an excellent album, a real must for Italian prog lovers!

Sithonia: La soluzione semplice (2011). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: From short interludes to 20-plus minute epics it's all here: grand upbeat synths and warm melancholic piano pieces, lofty mellotrons, drop-dead gorgeous passages of Ant Phillips-like acoustic guitar, rippin' melodic electric leads, and hearty Italian vocals. The combination of the earthy sunset mellotron and the bucolic acoustic guitar segments give the album a truly gorgeous feel, contrasted with occasional feisty elements... Sithonia break no new boundaries and seek not to impress via technical ecstasy, instead, this is an album of lovingly crafted tales which seep into you over time. More than anything else this is progressive rock with tons of heart, a passionate pastoral world of folksy musical storytelling and vibrant rock... (red the complete review HERE)

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