Monday, 30 November 2015

BRILLIANT CONTRAST

Adc is the third studio album by Accordo dei Contrari, a band from Bologna. It was released in 2014 on the independent label Altrock with a consolidated line up featuring Marco Marzo (electric and acoustic guitar), Daniele Piccinini (bass), Cristian Franchi (drums) and Giovanni Parmeggiani (Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, Minimoog, acoustic piano). According to the liner notes, the album was recorded live in studio in Riolo Terme, a small town in the province of Ravenna. The recording sessions took only three days with short overdubs and this work is the expression of a very cohesive collective. It reflects the positive atmosphere of the period the members of the band spent together with the aim of depicting the dynamics or the contrasts you see in everyday life through sounds... The result is an excellent instrumental album recommended to fans of bands such as Area, D.F.A or Perigeo.

album cover

The opener "Nadir" begins softly, the mood is dreamy. The title refers to a word coming from Arab that defines the direction pointing directly below a particular location... After a while the dreamy atmosphere changes, the rhythm becomes nervous before calming down again, but it's just a momentary pause before a new electric, frenzied ride towards deep underground spaces...

According to the liner notes, the following "Dandelion" is dedicated to Geoff Logsdon, the founder of Pleasant Green Records. The title refers to a large genus of flowering plants native to Eurasia and North America usually found as commonplace wild flowers worldwide. It's a tense, dynamic piece full of energy that could recall the soundtracks of Italian 70s action films...


The mysterious "Seth Zeugma" is enhanced by the contribute of two guest musicians, Vladimiro Cantaluppi (violin) and Enrico Guerzoni (cello). This piece blends with excellent results classical music elements with electric, jazzy inspirations and Middle Eastern touches of colour. There are many changes in tempos and mood and some passages could recall Area. The title comes from two words taken from the Ancient Greek. Seth refers to the god of the desert, storms, disorder, violence and foreigners in ancient Egyptian religion while Zeugma is a figure of speech in which one single phrase or word joins different parts of a sentence...

The lively, pulsing "Dua" swings from funky passages to more obscure, disquieting moments and vice versa... The title seems to refer to an Arabic word meaning to "call out" or to "summon". According to wikipedia sources, in the terminology of Islam, dua is an act of supplication and Muslims regard this as a profound act of worship. Who or what is invoked here? The answer is up to you...

Accordo dei Contrari 2014

The title of the following "Tiglath" could refer to an ancient king of Assyria (in the liner notes there's no explanation). In some way listening to this beautiful piece makes think of the film The Scorpion King, even if it was set in Egypt and not in contemporary Syria. Try to imagine a mysterious, powerful king coming to life again to carry out his terrible vengeance against those found guilty of the raging war that is destroying everything, even the archaeological sites, in his former kingdom... Here the music features some Middle Eastern flavours and could recall again Area and their revolutionary energy and musical force.

The delicate, acoustic "Più limpida e chiara di ogni impressione vissuta, part II" (Clearer, brighter than any lived impression) features the guests Vladimiro Cantaluppi (violin) and Marina Scaramagli (cello) and ends the album with a dreamy mood. According to the liner notes, this piece is dedicated to a woman, Annachiara, and its atmosphere is very different from the frenzied, aggressive first part that was released on the previous album Kublai in 2011. If both parts try to describe in music the hopes and fears of everyone's life, this one is definitively more calm and optimistic and represents a perfect conclusion for a beautiful, intense work that is really worth listening to...

Have a try! You can listen to the complete album HERE

Accordo dei Contrari: Adc (2014). Other opinions:
Olav Martin Bjørnsen: Instrumental progressive rock that ranges from frail chamber rock to ‘70s jazz-rock and progressive hard rock is what ADC explores on their third studio recording "AdC". An intriguing blend of musical styles, explored with care and consideration by high quality musicians. If you have a soft spot for instrumental progressive rock and a taste for variety, this is a disc that merits a closer inspection... (read the complete review HERE)


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Thursday, 26 November 2015

A SLEEPWALK IN THE PARK

Apple Device were a prog Roman band that had been active with different line ups on the live local scene from 2003 to 2011 but did not have the chance to record anything but a couple of demos. In 2013, on the initiative of multi-instrumentalist Marco Berlenghini and vocalist Flavio Stazi, the band came to a new life as a duo and under a different name, Inior, and in 2014 they finally self-released an interesting debut album of original compositions that was recorded with the help of some guests such as Daniele Pomo (drums, from Ranestrane), Stefano Marzioni (guitars) and Domenico Dante (bass). The album is entitled Hypnerotomachia and, according to the liner notes, it is a conceptual work that tells about the spiritual journey of a man leading him from the disruption of the appearances of the contemporary society to the inner self. As for the title, it probably refers to a peculiar path in the Gardens of Bomarzo that was inspired by a book entitled Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (translated into English as Poliphilo's Strife of Love in a Dream or The Dream of Poliphilus) that presents a mysterious arcane allegory in which the protagonist pursues his sweetheart through a dreamlike landscape...

art cover

The dreamy opener "The Paper Ship" sets the atmosphere with a delicate, waltzing instrumental intro where electric guitar and piano perfectly interact backed by the rhythm section. Then the hermetic lyrics theatrically interpreted by the voice of Flavio Stazi draw visionary images and conjure up a vibrating dance of feelings and emotions... Back to the liner notes: "An invocation to a water-Nymph, a propitiatory dance and the journey starts with a huge stone labyrinth pushing you down. No one can save you from the motionless cruelty of a slow dying habit and from the tragedy of not being able to hug anyone else but yourself. And then mirrors, spasms, jumps, understanding, death, seeds and a flower singing you a song of lightness and freedom".


Next comes the beautiful instrumental "Mu.S.E." (Music and Subtle Ensemble) that leads to the dark, nightmarish "Stain of Steel" where the music and words evoke a gloomy scenery and a sense of loss. You can feel the pressure pulsing on your bones and deep shadows cover your thoughts while crimson monsters of stone start coming out from your mind as notes from a musical box. You follow a thread but soon you realize that it is just a false guide that's tying you down to insanity...


The melancholic notes of "Worn-Out" take you in a desperate game of mirrors where the words try to tear apart a veil of solitude and obsolete attitudes. With the following "From Blue To Red" the rhythm rises again and the nightmare continues between lights and shadows, majestic crimson flashes and flat widescreens. The lyrics draw disquieting, confused images while the music every now and again seems to bring the echo of distant voices coming from the eighties. Nonetheless a mighty will is growing...


The ethereal "Starslave" is like a strange sleepwalk towards the sky on a dark, artificial curve. Then, on the following "Resilient", black turns to blue, tension slackens and you begin to float out of control in the empty space, defying the gravity force. On "INI.OR" you crawl into delirium, the rhythm becomes frenzied... Then, suddenly tension melts and the storm calms down on the piano pattern that opens the final track, "Dust". Now you're back to earth with a new awareness and a lighter soul...

All in all, it was just a strange dream. To be honest, the lyrics are not the strength of this album and the concept might be a bit confused but the music is excellent and this work is really worth listening to. Maybe the beautiful art cover by Diego Zura Puntaroni, based on an engraving of Ole Worm's Cabinet of Curiosity, describes the content of the album better than all my words... Have a try and judge by yourselves: you can listen to the complete album HERE.


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Thursday, 19 November 2015

WELCOME ON BOARD!

Res Gesta come from San Giovanni in Persiceto, a small town in the province of Bologna and have been around for more than thirty years as a cover band, trying to give new life to old seventies progressive rock pieces. In 2015 they finally self released a debut album of original compositions with a line up featuring Enea Vezzali (drums), Luigi Cerasuolo (bass), Cesare Cavalli (guitar), Simone Muzzi (keyboards) and Roberto Bergamini (vocals). The album is entitled Odissea and is a conceptual one, a sparkling rock opera with more than 73 minutes of good music and strong melodies. Years of hard work have resulted in a very mature sound and although you can hear on this album some influences from the past the band managed to add their own ideas and personality with excellent results. As you can guess, the story-line was inspired by the Odyssey but the band interpreted it in a very personal way trying to link Homer's immortal poetry to our contemporary society...


The beautiful, long opener "Overture" starts softly with an instrumental section for piano that could recall Goblin, then the rhythm takes off. In the night you're welcomed on board of a mysterious ship that is setting off on a journey across a raging sea, towards unknown lands where you will find war, ambiguities, unreality and ferocious ogres to deceive. You are troubled by your own fragility and you feel lost, you don't know what are you looking for... Who can save you?

The disquieting "Guerra" (War) is a metaphor of all the wars in human history. It begins by the sound of distant hooters and obsessive bass lines, then recitative vocals evoke the image of a powerful army debarking on a beach from their battle ships under a gray asphalt sky, the rhythm rises... You can see the heroes ready to conquer and defeat their enemy: there's no room for agreements, any mediation is out of question and all the dreams of peace have to be closed in a box, put away and hidden in a remote part of the mind, because war is more remunerative than peace and money is the only real God. From the ancient walls of Troy to the Twin Towers, billions of people have been walking through the flames of an eternal hell between blood and treason, damned forever in the name of their God!


"Il giorno dopo" (The day after) is a dreamy, acoustic ballad filled with emotion and melody that comes like the calm after the storm. The day after the final battle there is still fire on the ruins of the conquered city. The night of tragedy and death is over and all stands still in this morning without heroes, there's no crowd in the streets and you feel stranded and broken inside. Now the fire is behind you and you have to wake up and set off on another journey. In front of you there are sleepless night filled with the desperate voices of your memories but you have no time to waste, you have to go on following a new route towards the horizon, to reach what you can't reach, to see what you can't see, to feel what you can't feel...

The following "Lotofagi" (Lotus-eaters) begins by an exotic percussion pattern and features a strange, mysterious atmosphere. The rhythm is slow, inebriated by the sacred flowers of the Gods you're floating among the clouds of an unreal sky, lost in a kind of artificial psychedelic peace that shines like a light into oblivion... Then the rhythm rises while soaring vocals wake you up from your seep cutting like a knife the curtain of illusion that makes you blind. Now you're back on your route across the see...

album cover

"Ciclope" (Cyclops) is a long, complex track that deals with a terrible, murderous danger that you can meet during your peregrinations. In Greek mythology a cyclops was a member of a primordial race of men-eaters giants, each with a single eye in the middle of his forehead. Polyphemus was the name of the one Odysseus met during his mythical journey but here the lyrics use the cyclops just as a metaphor to warn you about the cynicism of media and trash TV. It's described as a dangerous eye that can judge and condemn, it can destroy everything, tame people and make a man special... A wild modern monster that in some way is depicted on the album cover as well!

"Circe" is a lively, sarcastic track where the voice of Roberto Bergamini reminds me more than ever of Francesco Di Giacomo from Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. In Greek mythology Circe is a goddess of magic (or sometimes a nymph, witch, enchantress or sorceress) but here she's depicted just as a hard-headed, wise woman who fights for her peace and her moral values. She's not a witch nor a supernatural creature, she's not more wicked than a powerful king can be or than a greedy, egoist business man in our sad contemporary reality where there's no pity for the losers. All in all, if she has transformed some people into swines it's just because so they are the mirror of clergymen and merciless butchers...


"Sirene" (Sirens) is beautiful, evocative track with a Gothic atmosphere and a suggestive sense of mystery. No need for lyrics here, just the female vocals a cappella of the guests from the Macramé choir, Michela Pedrini, Serena Pecoraro and Elisabetta Dell'Argine, who weave seducing harmonies leading to the following "Calipso", a long, romantic piece describing the moment of Odysseus departure from his golden captivity in the island of the nymph Calypso. Well, it's a nice way to describe the end of an intense, complicated relationship with strong melodies, a pinch of blues and a beautiful instrumental coda that could recall a wonderful springtime song...

On "Déjà vu" the rhythm rises again, the mood is dark while aggressive electric guitar riffs are intertwined with raging keyboards waves. The lyrics describe the feelings of a man who seems to have lost his identity, the borders between reality and unreality are blurred by infinite waves and new horizons. Lost memories dance in sleepless nights... Is it magic or madness?


The dreamy, poetical "Eolo" (Aeolus) and "Overture (Reprise)" end the album leading you to a new awareness. You're riding on the wind, flying high in the silence, breathing the intensity of a moment that no one can tell. Well, your journey was nothing but a dream, now the dark night is just a distant memory and you are walking in the present, maker of you own destiny in a world that conjures up strange shadows and illusions that after a while are thrown away... You're playing a big game and now you know where the wind's blowing: get the chance and set off on another journey, pace after pace!

On the whole, I enjoyed very much this album and I'm sure that Italian prog lovers will appreciate it as well. Contact the band to get the CD...

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

ANATOMY AND PROGRESS

Kalisantrope are a young prog band from Rescaldina, a small town in the province of Milan. The band was formed in 2013 with a line up featuring Noemi Bolis (bass), Alex Carsetti (drums) and Davide Freguglia (keyboards). Soon after they met, they begun to work on some original compositions and started performing live on the local scene. At the end of 2014 the band self released a very interesting debut EP entitled Anatomy Of The World, with a very simple packaging and a nice artwork. The album is completely instrumental and the overall sound could recall bands such Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Le Orme but it would be unfair to define them as clones of someone else. In my opinion their song-writing is absolutely brilliant and these young musicians deserve credit.


The opener "Varroa Destructor" starts just by drums and bass, then the keyboards bring in a disquieting, dramatic atmosphere. The title refers to an external parasitic mite that attacks the honey bees and that can only thrive in a honey bee colony. It attaches to the body of the bee and weakens its prey by sucking hemolymph. A significant mite infestation will lead to the death of a honey bee colony, usually in the late autumn through early spring... Well, here the music has an ethnic, tribal flavour and you can almost feel an impending, threatening event looming on the horizon!


Next comes "Hypophysis" that starts by an evocative intro played by the keyboards setting a mysterious, almost spacey atmosphere. The title refers to the pituitary gland, or hypophysis, an endocrine gland, a protrusion off the bottom of the hypothalamus at the base of the brain from where are secreted the hormones that help to control growth, blood pressure and many other functions of the human body...

Kalisantrope

"Holodomor" is another evocative track featuring a dark, almost gloomy mood. The title refers to the "Terror-Famine in Ukraine". According to wikipedia sources, the word Holodomor literally translated from Ukrainian means "death by hunger", or "to kill by hunger, to starve to death". The Holodomor was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1932 and 1933 that killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians, with millions more counted in demographic estimates. Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognized by the independent Ukraine and many other countries as a genocide of the Ukrainian people carried out by the Soviet Union...


The following "Concept Fading" is lighter and alternates delicate, dreamy piano solo passages with heavier, frenzied sections full of energy with the keyboards backed by a strong rhythm section. It leads to the excellent final suite "She", a long, complex track divided into three parts. The first one is subtitled "Funeral Elegy" and features a classical inspired church like organ solo that sets a dark atmosphere. The rhythm section comes in for the second part, subtitled "1st Anniversary: An Anatomy Of The World", where a steady marching beat fades in a dreamy, reflective passage leading to the jazzy conclusive part, subtitled "2nd Anniversary: The Progress Of The Soul". A great track!

On the whole, I think that this is a very promising debut work that it is really worth listening to. Have a try! You can listen to the complete album HERE

Kalisantrope: Anatomy Of The World (2014). Other opinions:
Michael "Aussie-Byrd-Brother": "Anatomy of the World" already shows great promise, with the young group striking a good balance between a modern sound with vintage Seventies RPI qualities. Some parts remind of the instrumental elements of Le Orme, and, surprisingly, other moments hint at the classical elegance and daring of Triade's sole 1973 album "1998: La Storia di Sabazio"! With fleeting moments of gothic grandeur, brief space- rock diversions, heavier bursts and symphonic flavours also worked in, it's an exciting little start to a potentially great new band to keep an eye on!... (Read the complete review HERE)

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Monday, 16 November 2015

APPLES AND SNAKES

Back To Earth is the second album by Old Rock City Orchestra, a band from Orvieto that began life in 2009. It was released on the independent label M.P. & Records in 2015, three years after the promising debut entitled Once Upon A Time, and confirms all the good qualities of the previous work. The line up is still the same and features Cinzia Catalucci (vocals, keyboards), Raffaele Spanetta (guitars), Giacomo Cocchiara (bass) and Michele “Mike” Capriolo (drums). The overall sound draws on what now is called classic rock, all the tracks are played with enthusiasm and vitality, they're sprinkled with a touch of psychedelia and heartfelt melody and could recall bands such as Jefferson Airplane, Affinity or Circus 2000 without sounding out of date...


The opener "When You Pick Up An Apple From The Tree" is a nice track where the beautiful voice of Cinzia Catalucci is used just as instrument and takes you high on a light flight across a starry sky. Every now and again it reminds me of The Pentangle and is enriched by the electric violin of the guest Laurence Cocchiara that adds a baroque touch to final result. It's linked to the following "Feelin' Alive" where the atmosphere becomes darker and where the music and words depict a girl who lost her soul in a rainy night and now is overwhelmed by sorrow and desperation. She needs help, she needs someone to teach her that there's always time for the last goodbye to life and that suicide can't be a good way out from her troubles...

Old Rock City Orchestra 2015

The following "Rain On A Sunny Day" and "Mr. Shadow" are two tracks full of obscure energy where the music and lyrics evoke deadly shadows looming large on the horizon. They lead to the bitter-sweet "Melissa", a delicate, acoustic song that was inspired by the 2012 Brindisi School Bombing, a bomb attack occurred in Italy on May 19, 2012, when three gas cylinder bombs hidden in a large rubbish bin exploded in front of the Morvillo Falcone high school in Brindisi, killing Melissa Bassi, a 16-year-old girl, and injuring five other students.

Old Rock City Orchestra on stage

Then "Lady Viper" lights the fire of a nightmarish vision evoking an evil, deceiving creature prowling for money and honey. It leads to the suggestive "My Love", that describes in music and words an irresistible need, the urge to join someone or to get something so precious you can't live without it...


"Tonight, Tomorrow And Forever" is about the relativity of time and feelings and here the music and lyrics invite you to catch the day, freeing your mind and leaving behind fears and sorrow. Next comes the dreamy, reflective "Why Life" that in some way blends hope and regret, dreams and awareness of the limits that real life can draw around you. The long title track, "Back To Earth" ends the album with a melancholic mood and an ethereal stroll down memory lane that maybe the beautiful art work by Lucy Ziniac can describe better that all my words...

On the whole, a good album in black and white played on the tightrope of nostalgia but with a close look at the present.


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