Thursday, 6 August 2020

THE BLACK KNIGHT SHADOW

Protean Circus began life in Colleferro, near Rome, in 2016, inspired by classic rock, prog and a touch of power metal. In 2019 they self-released an interesting debut album entitled Rhymes In The Voice Of River with a line up featuring Daniele Imperioli (vocals), Marco Cutini (guitar), Lorenzo Zanelli (guitar), Andrea Piacentini (keyboards), Luigi Sebastianelli (bass) and Luca Cutini (drums). According to the band, this is a conceptual work loosely based upon The Matter of Britain, the body of Medieval literature and legendary material associated with the myths King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Anyway, the band interpret these legends in a very free form: there’s no philological research nor real effort to revive Medieval music and the approach to the music and lyrics is definitively closer to Toto or Kansas than to Alan Stivell... 


The opener, “Ancient Rhymes” starts softly, the atmosphere is dreamy... But after a minute and a half a slapping bass breaks in determining a sudden change of mood: that’s not Avalon but Hollywood! As the music veers to AOR and the singer is asking if you are ready for an immersion in a fairy world, I’m reminded of Black Knight, a 2001 American fantasy adventure comedy film directed by Gil Junger and starring Martin Lawrence who plays the role of a theme park employee who is transported through time to medieval England... 

Protean Circus on stage, 2019

Next comes “The Vision” that tells of the meeting with a fallen angel and fades in the sweet, delicate “Whisper”, dealing with motherly love. Then it’s the turn of “Wild Waves”, about the need of a helping hand to overcome the storms of life and with the shadow of Dire Straits looming large. With the bluesy “Deception Is Revealed” we are on the road again between desires and passions while the following, melancholic “Imprisoned” is softer. For this track the band shot a video, a nice cartoon where painter Giulia Guglielmetti interpret the content of music and words with her images... 


“Alone” opens by a sudden surge of energy, then goes through many changes of rhythm and atmosphere as darkness falls down and merciless cold winds drain out the last energies of the solitary protagonist. Then the powerful, melodic “The Land Of Fortress” and “The End Of The King” take us in the lands of Avalon as imagined by the band. The long epic “Mild Immortal Nymph Of River” closes the album with an elegiac mood.

Well, lyrics and vocals are not the strength of this work and in my opinion the band should have tried to use their mother language for better results but they showcase a good potential and I enjoyed the album despite some passages that sound a bit kitsch to my ears...

You can listen to the complete album HERE

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Wednesday, 5 August 2020

A BARBARIC LEGACY

Ilienses were born in 2018 in the province of Nuoro on the initiative of multi-instrumentalist and composer Mauro Medde from Gavoi and vocalist Natascia Talloru from Tonara. The name of the band refers to the ancient Nuragic people who lived during the Bronze and Iron Ages in central-southern Sardinia, in an area called Barbagia, a natural region located alongside the Gennargentu massif. Their aim is to blend the sound of Sardinian traditional instruments such as tumbarinos, pipiolos, tumborro, corno, triangulu, campanacci di Tonara or cantu a tenore vocals with modern rock instruments such as electric bass, piano, synth and drums. The result is a very particular mix of dark folklore and progressive rock full of experimentalism and original ideas... 


In 2020 Ilienses self-released an excellent debut album entitled Civitates Barbariae, recorded with the help of the guest musicians Fabio Perra (drums), Alessio Zucca (piano) and Daniele Soru (bassu tenore). All the tracks of the albums are linked together to form a long suite dealing with the history and the spirit of Barbagia. Narrative vocals in Italian introduce the subject matter driving you in an ancient, imaginary world where proud wild tribes fight for their freedom opposing the foreign rule. In fact, Roman domination in this part of Sardinia was never more than nominal...


According to the band, this work was conceived as an imaginary soundtrack for a film although the plot is up to your imagination. There are many whispered and recitative vocal fragments in Sardinian language taken from the works by Peppinu Mereu, a poet from Tonara, to stir your imagination and to add colours to the picture while the music flows leading you through an enchanted, almost magical world. You can hear the sound of blades and spears or the echoes of ancient pagan rites, there are ghosts riding under the moon… But if you pay the due attention you can also perceive that the music and words are the fruit of a real philological research. In the end, narrative vocals in Italian evoke the soul of the land that tired to wander into blooded soil and pain surrenders to fate. But even in the darkest moment the beauty of Sardinia’s natural and cultural heritage shines through...


By the way, to promote the album the band shot an evocative video to give an idea of what their music is about… Have a try!

You can listen to the complete album HERE

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Friday, 17 July 2020

IMAGINARY FILMS

Larry Manteca is the alter ego of multi-instrumentalist and composer Alessandro Paiola, an artist from Milan in love with the scores of Italian B-movies from the Seventies. In 2013 he gathered around him a bunch of musicians who shared his passion and with their help self-released a first EP entitled Zombie Mandingo, the soundtrack of an imaginary exotic-horror film mixing funky, afro-beat, cool jazz, library music and a touch of prog. On this album the line up features along with Alessandro Paiola (drums, synthesizers, percussion, vocals) also Ivo Barbieri (bass), Nicola Colombo (keyboards) and Riccardo Danieli (guitar) and the fruit of the recording sessions is an interesting tribute to the vintage atmospheres of the past where sources of inspiration ranging from Fela Kuti to Eumir Deodato, from Funkadelik to Weather Report and many others are brewed with fresh energies and a contemporary taste. 


In 2014 it’s the turn of Deep Cut, an EP inspired by the scores of 70s crime-action films with music in the vein of modern Italian bands such as Calibro 35 or La Batteria. It’s the soundtrack of an imaginary B-movie, a poliziottesco set in the U.S.A., with car chases and shootings in the streets of New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco... This work was almost completely played and recorded alone by Alessandro Paiola with just a couple of guests such as Nicola Colombo (keyboards on “Saturation”) and Mizzu Avitabile (bass on “Saturation” and “Don’t Stop The Traffic Lights”) and the help of Riccardo Danieli for production and arrangements. 


The following EP was released in 2015 and is entitled Mutant Virgins From Pluto. It’s the imaginary soundtrack of a 70s science-fiction film where the subject matter deals with intergalactic journeys, space-ships, post-atomic sceneries and alien invasions. According to the artist, a particular source of inspiration, quoted on the piece “UFO Bossa”, was Plan 9 From Outer Space, a 1959 American independent science-fiction horror film written, produced, directed, and edited by Ed Wood. The line up here features Alessandro Paiola (synth, drums, percussion), Riccardo Danieli (vocals, drums, percussion, synth), Daniele Cortese (bass), Marco Forcione (guitar), Carlo Pelsa (flute, trumpet) and Yasmine Zekri (vocals) while the overall sound blends Jethro Tull and funky, Tangerine Dream and Latin rhythms with excellent results.

Larry Manteca on stage, 2019

In 2016 Larry Manteca project consolidated and started performing live as a real band with a line up featuring Alessandro Paiola (synth, piano), Riccardo Danieli (guitar, vocals), Carlo Pelsa (flute, trumpet), Lorenzo Previdi (percussion), Filippo Aloisi (bass) and Daniele Izzi (drums). In 2017 the same line up recorded and self released another nice EP, Emanuelle Goes To Hollywood, an imaginary soundtrack this time inspired by 70s erotic movies. The title refers to the protagonist of a series of French soft-core erotic films based on the novel Emmanuelle while the suggestive music draws on fiery funky rhythms, Latin rock and exotic, dreamy atmospheres sprinkled with prog digressions and jazz rock...


In 2019 Larry Manteca self released their first “full length” album (about 32 minutes), Zombie Mandingo 2, a sequel of the first EP, with a slightly renewed line up featuring Alessandro Paiola (synth, electric piano, Hammond, drums, percussion), Riccardo Danieli (vocals, guitar), Carlo Pelsa (flute), Ivo Barbieri (bass) and Lorenzo Previdi (percussion). In my opinion it’s a mature work, a kind of fantasia exotica where jazz rock combines with Latin and African rhythms for an evocative journey through dreamy landscapes and nightmarish shadows and where all the musicians involved showcase good musicianship and gusto. The same year the first four EPs were collected in a compilation album entitled Volume 1...


Larry Manteca’s last work so far was self-released in 2020 with a line up featuring Alessandro Paiola (synth, piano, drums, percussion), Riccardo Danieli (guitar, bass, vocals), Andrea Quattrini (drums) and Andrea Bellicoso (dobro) and is a short EP entitled Shoot ‘Em All, inspired by Spaghetti Western films and dedicated to the memory of soundtrack maestro Ennio Morricone who recently passed away...

You can listen to all Larry Manteca’s album HERE

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