Wednesday, 21 December 2016

SONGS FROM THE ALPS

The John Silver Band began life in Belluno in 2005 with a line up formed by Gianni Carlin (vocals, flute, xylophone), Emmanuele Burigo (electric and acoustic guitar), Federico Bassanello (bass) and Fabrizio Gaspari (drums, glockenspiel). The band split up in 2011, after a good live activity on the local scene and a self-released debut album entitled La luce che muore nel buio (2009) featuring funny, sarcastic lyrics and an overall sound influenced by Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa, blues-rock and psychedelia...




Three years later, in 2014 Gianni Carlin and Emmanuele Burigo started a new project with a rhythm section formed by Antonio Nabari (bass, glockenspiel) and Enrico Tormen (drums) carrying on their previous band's legacy. The name of the new band is Campo Magnetico (Magnetic field) and in 2016 they home-recorded and self-released an interesting debut album entitled Li vuoi quei kiwi? (Do you want those kiwis?). In everyday life magnetic fields are most often encountered as a force created by permanent magnets, which pull on ferromagnetic materials and attract or repel other magnets. Well, in this case the permanent magnets are the hard, raw rhythm section on one side and the clean, soaring notes of the flute on the other side and the nine instrumental tracks on the album draw all their strength from the contrast between the two opposite poles...


The opener "Pane da guardia" (Watch-bread) sets the atmosphere. The pace is slow and heavy, distorted electric guitar riffs lead the march as a storm of iron butterflies fly around. Then the soaring notes of the flute bring in light melodies and songs from the woods... Can you get the picture?

The following "La fiera di Düsseldorf" (Düsseldorf Fair) begins by an experimental section where the voice is used as an instrument and the band seem free to improvise but uncertain about what direction take. Well, Gianni Carlin is not Demetrio Stratos and nothing is easy here. Luckily the experiment is not too long and on the second part of the piece the band stand up, the rhythm takes off and the flute begins to cry you a song...

Campo Magnetico 2016

The long "Sabbia di cammelli di sabbia" (Sand of camels of sand) in my opinion is the weakest track of the lot. Here at times the musicians seem to play almost casually mixing wordless nursery rhymes and oriental flavours but the results are not always convincing and they risk get stuck in the quicksands of boredom...

The lively "Perché hai il fiatone John?" (Why are you getting out of breath John?) is definitely better, even if it doesn't shine for originality. It leads to the short, dreamy "Buccia di pesce" (Fish skin) where the rhythm calms down for a rest before the ride under the stars of the hypnotic "Appuntamento al buio" (Randez-vous in the dark).


"L'osso dell'albero" (The bone of the tree) is another good track that recalls early Jethro Tull as the following "Sig. Tartaruga" (Mr. Turtle) that alternates surges of energy and slower passages. The closer "La tua ciabatta focosa" (Your fiery slipper) starts with electric guitar riffs that remind me of Black Sabbath. This track could describe in a very funny way a kind of parasitical couch potato... But the interpretation of the music is up to you!

On the whole, this an interesting, home-grown album with a strong vintage atmosphere. The sound quality might not be one of the best and personally I think that the use of a Hammond organ could have improved the final result but I enjoyed it anyway.

However, give it a try and judge for yourselves. You can listen to the complete album HERE

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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

POINT OF NO RETURN

Anacondia began life in 1995 on the initiative of keyboardist Andrea Canonico and singer Gabriele Ramilli but it wasn't until 2000 that the band could find a durable line up featuring, along with the founder members, also Antonio Emanuele Sergi (drums, percussion), Walter Marocchi (guitars) and Vincenzo Valerio (bass). After two demo EPs (Genesi instabile, 2003 and Due mondi, 2005 - later collected on the self-released CD Due mondi, 2006) and a good live activity, in 2015 the band finally released what can be considered their first real official full length album on the independent label Lizard Records. It's entitled L'orizzonte degli eventi (Event Horizon) and features the collaboration of the guest Nicoletta Bartola (sax, flute, backing vocals) who contributed to enrich the sound. It's a nice mix of prog, metal, psychedelia, classical and a touch of folk and in my opinion it's a great step forward for the band, especially if compared with the previous, still immature, demos. The title of the album refers to a phenomenon that is usually associated with black holes, a boundary in space-time beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. Anyway, here the term event horizon is used in a metaphorical way and marks the limit between dreams and reality, ideals and conformism. But perhaps the art cover by Massimo Valerio probably describes the lyrical content of this work better than my words...


The opener "Eroi di solitudine" (Heroes of solitude) starts by heavy electric guitar riffs and sudden flushes of energy. The music and lyrics describe the desperate wish to escape from the nothingness of a society that is compared to a vain, empty pageant of masks where falsity and myths of plastic rule. Despite its length this is a straightforward piece where the band just try to express rage without hate claiming their right to be different from the mainstream...

The following track "Nel silenzio" (In the silence) is shorter but, in my opinion, more complex and refined. At the start the atmosphere is almost hypnotic, tense. Then tension melts in a dreamy section with the flute in the forefront... Here the music and lyrics depict a kind of nobody's land between wake and sleep where strange sensations and false images gather around you and silence begins to paint your soul in vivid colours as a soundless orchestra begins to play for you...

Anacondia on stage 2013

"Ideale o verità" (Ideal or truth) starts calmly and conjures up confused images hanging in the air, between dream and reality. It's a delicate ballad that deals with the need to have an ideal, a dream to follow to get on and on. Dreams and hopes can make you blind but without them you risk to get lost anyway... Next comes the melodic "Come un fiume in piena" (As a raging river) that celebrates the thaumaturgic, overwhelming power of a music that can shake you from the inside and that you can't stop.

"Un foglio bianco" (A blank paper) is an excellent track that combines delicate classical music patterns and heavier passages. The music and lyrics describe the atmosphere of an important moment in your life when you have to make up your mind and make a choice but where you are uncertain about what to do. Life can be like a blank sheet that you have to fill with your own words, a white page that you have to paint with your own imagination and sometimes you really have to try hard to reach your goal...


The long, complex "Gerico" (Jericho) is a dramatic epic whose title refers to the battle of Jericho as told in the holy bible... So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword. (Joshua 6:20-21). However, here the episode of the fall of Jericho is just a metaphor: in fact, the music and lyrics of this piece tell of an imaginary battle against falsity and human vanity drawing strong images and evocative musical passages.

The ethereal closer "Il colore dell'aria" (The colour of the air) starts softly and the atmosphere is dreamy and melancholic. The music and lyrics evoke the dance of the wind and the singing of the leaves, an inner void that is difficult to understand and dark shadows that the river swept away. But at last you can hear a friendly voice and see the light of hope showing the way...

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

Streaming available on deezer or spotify. Have a try!

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Monday, 28 November 2016

PARALLEL SOUNDS

Universi Paralleli is the last, long awaited, studio album by Arti e Mestieri, a band from Turin that have been active, one way or another, for more than forty years. It was released in 2015 on the Cramps - Sony label with a renewed line up featuring, along with founder members Gigi Venegoni (acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards) and Furio Chirico (drums, percussion), also Iano Nicolò (vocals), Piero Mortara (accordion, piano, keyboards), Lautaro Acosta (violin, electric violin), Roberto Puggioni (bass, fretless bass) and Marco Roagna (acoustic and electric guitars) plus some prestigious guests such as Arturo Vitale (sax), Mel Collins (sax, flute) and Lino Vairetti (vocals). The creative vein of the band has not run out along the years and the songwriting is still brilliant, blending jazz rock, melody and Mediterranean colours with excellent results. On the album cover there's the picture of a sculpture by Lugi Farina that in some way recalls their debut album Tilt - Immagini per un orecchio, but with a touch of modernity that could give you an idea of the musical content. According to the liner notes, the music and lyrics of this work deal with the subject of parallel universes, emotional contrasts that are mirrored, for instance, in double lives or double personalities...


The opener "Alter Ego" is a great instrumental track where acoustic and electric instruments draw new images for you ears with soaring melodic lines defying the gravity force flying high over jazzy patterns... I think that it's a very introduction for a wonderful album!

"Dune" is a beautiful instrumental with Oriental flavours that leads to "Pacha Mama" where we can hear for the first time on this work Iano Nicolò's vocals. The lyrics deal with environmental issues. In fact, the title refers to the goddess of fertility revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. Mother Earth here is depicted as a dying entity, poisoned by the greediness of humankind. Men driven by gold are sucking the divine maternal sap like vampires while deserts of sand are rapidly replacing lakes and rivers...

Arti e Mestieri 2015

A strong, melancholic wind of nostalgia blows through the notes of the following "L’ultimo imperatore" (The last emperor). The title seems to refer to the film of the same name directed in 1987 by Bernardo Bertolucci about the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China. The lyrics do not try to tell a story but draw evocative images about parallel universes and fading memories where distorted and manipulated revolutions are celebrated by godless priests in doomy cathedrals that can't hide the pervasive sense of loss and emptiness of a faithless ritual performed by rote...


"Finisterre" and "Johann" are two charming instrumental pieces drenched in a kind of dreamy romanticism that lead to the heartfelt "Restare immobile" (Remaining motionless) where the music and lyrics depict the eternal contrast between reality and dreams. You can pin down a fragment of reality on a blank page and anaesthetize your memories. Poetry and dreams can set you free and when your mind begins to fly you're able to take off on a journey across far, extraordinary worlds, even without moving your body!

The melancholic instrumental "Borea" (Boreas) is full of delicate autumnal colours and soaring folksy melodies with accordion and violin in the forefront. The music draws evocative northern landscapes while the title refers to the god of the north wind, one of the four seasonal Anemoi in ancient Greek mythology... It leads to the joyful "Pandora" where the music and lyrics conjure up strange images and cheerful dances. Here the wind takes you onwards and you set off on a magical journey to discover new moons and better days...

Arti e Mestieri on stage

The following "Linea d’ombra" (Shadow line) is darker and tense. It's another beautiful instrumental that leads to the pyrotechnic drum solo "Comunicazione primordiale" (Primordial communication), full of savage energy and exotic flavours. Next comes the instrumental "La luce in fondo al tunnel" (The light at the end of the tunnel) that is more relaxed and shines for his perfect mix of jazz and classical influences.

The last track "Nato" (Born) is credited as a "bonus track" and features the special guest Lino Vairetti from Osanna on vocals. It's a wonderful piece that deals with a strong sense of nostalgia for a lost emotion that was born from a thought or maybe from a kiss, or a lie, a tune, a sound, a poem, a sin, a shout or just from a moment of madness that now your are trying to find again between a smile and a tear, between the clouds and the stars, in an image or in a deep, cold abyss inside you soul or... wherever you want! It's just a magic moment that fled away and you're still desperately running after it...

On the whole, I think that this is wonderful album and a real must for every Italianprog lover!

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