Thursday, 2 July 2015

FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT

Hailing from the province of Venice, Sezione Frenante began life in the early seventies under the name Le Nuove Dimensioni, later changed into the current name. During the seventies they hadn't the chance to record an album and split up in 1978, when the interest for progressive rock was fading. In 2006 the band reformed on the initiative of three founder members and in 2014 Sezione Frenante finally released a debut album on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records with a line up featuring Alessandro Casagrande (drums, percussion), Sandro Bellemo (bass), Doriano Mestriner (gutars, vocals), Mirco De Marchi (keyboards, vocals) and Francesco Nardo (lead vocals) plus the guest Antonio Zullo (acoustic guitar). This long awaited album is entitled Metafora di un viaggio - Arditi voli di cervelli attenti and is a conceptual work, vaguely inspired by Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, that describes in music and words a cathartic journey from darkness to light, from despair to hope... The overall sound draws on vintage atmospheres and could recall bands such as Le Orme, Metamorfosi, Procession or Alphataurus but the musicians managed to put into the mix all their passion, their experience and their personality with excellent results and the album is really worth listening to.


The opener "La quiete in un attimo" (Peace in a while) starts by pulsing bass lines and dreamy passages that seem to mark the transition into an hypnotic state of unconsciousness. The music and lyrics evoke a moment of quiet where you can think and get lost into your dreams. Now you're almost floating on the current of your thoughts, between life and death... The dark organ surge of the following "La meta non trovata" (The unfounded destination) announces a dangerous journey through a realm of shadows where you're surrounded by shapeless things and faded visions. Eventually, your aimless wandering takes you in front of a high white door that blocks your way... Then a surreal calm comes down and "La meta non trovata (curiosità di essere)" (The unfounded destination - Curiosity of being) describes curiosity and fear seizing your throat. Your brain doesn't work, you can't think anymore...

Next comes "Attesa" (Waiting), a short instrumental that describes the time you pass in doubt, waiting in front of the white door while the following "Passaggio" (Passage) is another short instrumental describing the moment of the crossing of that strange threshold. It leads to "Viscido ambiente" (Slimy place) that describes a gloomy world inhabited by icy shadows without brain, a world where there's no peace. You can feel a sense of void spreading all around you and even inside your heart, there's nothing but hate here, you have to feed on it... The following "Pace immaginata" (Fancied peace) describes the crossing of this bleak world with its threatening panoramas. Every now and again some flames break through the darkness and shapeless beings disappear into the void, swallowed by black waves. You can perceive unknown shadows sucking your blood like parasites, driving you insane... At last you see a corridor and something pushes you in the right direction, towards the light at the end of the tunnel, towards a shelter...

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At the sound of a bell, "Quattro stelle" (Four stars) welcomes you to a very different world of ethereal lights and sapphire skies. The four stars of the title refer to the four cardinal virtues that now show your way: prudence, justice, temperance and courage. Then a church-like organ passage drives you on the footsteps of a Love song while delicate melodies blow away the shadows of hell and their gloomy omens. A new hope is beating in your chest, you can see around you sinners who repent and start climbing a steep hill leading to a better dream...

Next comes "Nota stonata" (Discordant note) that describes in music and words a kind of Garden of Eden where you can find a perfect harmony. But someone is singing out of tune in the angelic choir, there's a soul down below that, pushed by human virtue, seeks for something that is not perfect at all. This soul is looking for the unknown, for great passions inspired by pagan muses, for never ending adventures and strong emotions...

Sezione Frenante 2014

The long, complex closer "Svegiati luce" (Wake up light) conjures up apocalyptic visions of exiled souls that have been waiting for a thousand years on the banks of the river Lethe. They're still waiting for boarding on the divine wooden ship that would take them across the river. It's a long, silent queue of uncertain spirits looking for a guide to lead them to a place where peace rules, a kingdom of light that will melt the shadows and dry the tears, where the sun rises like a blade of fire spreading its thaumaturgical strength all over creation...

On the whole, this is a very interesting album. Of course, seventies influences loom large over this work and it might not shine for originality but its mystical lyricism and its powerful and engaging musical colours make of it a real treat for Italianprog lovers. So, if you like modern progressive rock that’s based on classic Italian prog, you really have to check this band out.

Sezione Frenante: Metafora di un viaggio (2014). Other opinions:
Michael "Aussie-Byrd-Brother": "Metafora di un Viaggio" gets Sezione Frenante's belated studio recording career off to a great start, and the results have been more than worth the wait. A mix of pleasing melodic tunes and subtle, restrained but quietly thrilling instrumental moments, with a very joyful quality constantly present really makes this album shine brightly. Hopefully we see the band build on their efforts here with more recordings in the near future! (read the complete review HERE)

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Friday, 26 June 2015

CRYSTAL DREAMS

Raccomandata con Ricevuta di Ritorno were a band of the Italian prog scene of the early seventies. The line-up featured Luciano Regoli (vocals, acoustic guitar), Nanni Civitenga (guitar), Stefano Piermarioli (keyboards), Damaso Grassi (flute, sax), Manlio Zacchia (bass) and Francesco Froggio Francica (drums, percussion). They came from Rome and released only one album. Anyway, the musicians were also involved in other projects, for instance singer Luciano Regoli came from a previous experience in a band called Il Ritratto di Dorian Gray (that never released an album) with future Goblin leader Claudio Simonetti and, after RRR disbanded, he and guitarist Nanni Civitenga played in another band called Samadhi...


Per... un mondo di cristallo” (For... A crystal world) is a concept album based on a story by Marina Comin, who wrote the lyrics. The music and words try to describe the feelings of an astronaut who comes back to Earth and finds only desolation and ruins... The planet where he had lived before his space journey does not exist anymore, around him there’s nothing (“Nulla”). The first track is a short introduction dominated by a church-like organ then, on the second track, acoustic guitar and flute greet the astronaut’s awakening. The protagonist climbs onto a rock (“Su una rupe”) and realizes that he’s living a kind of nightmare because everything around him is dead now... The music is complex, with shifting tempos... “Men, if you could climb on this rock and see what you have done... You would have thought more about what you were doing...”. Then anguish and fear, it’s as if the world was falling down and the protagonist remembers the happy days of his past “like a tree that is using its roots...”. Here the music is uneasy and it reminds me of Il Balletto di Bronzo’s “Ys” (“Il mondo cade su di me”), then turns into a “jazz mood” (“Nel mio quartiere”).

inner sleeve

The second part of the album begins with a dramatic atmosphere, a threatening unsmiling shadow is rising on the horizon. When the protagonist realizes that the merciless shadow is “humankind” the rhythm turns into tarantella... The lost world was nothing but a puppet show, a stage where men were acting like marionettes (“Un palco di marionette”). The music here describes the madness of humankind in a perfect mix of a wide range of moods and rhythms. The final track is dreamy, with acoustic guitar and flute in the forefront... Now the protagonist has nothing in his mind but crystal dreams (“Sogni di cristallo”) that melt back into the mist...


On the whole a very good album, with a beautiful art cover. Perhaps it’s not flawless (the lyrics are a little bit naïve and the vocal parts are not “impeccable”) but it’s really worth listening to... If you like bands as BMS, Le Orme or Il Balletto di Bronzo this album will be an excellent addition to your collection!

 
You can listen to the complete album HERE

Friday, 19 June 2015

UNDER THE RAIN

Trasparenze is the fifth studio album by Malibran, a band from Catania whose roots date back to 1987. It was released in 2009 on the independent label Electromantic, more than seven years after its predecessor Oltre l'ignoto. Although it was originally conceived as a solo project of the leader and multi-instrumentalist Giuseppe Scaravilli, later other members of the band joined him during the recording sessions and eventually this excellent work was released under the name Malibran with a line up featuring Giuseppe Scaravilli (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, flute, bass, keyboards), Jerry Litrico (guitar) and Alessio Scaravilli (drums) plus the guests Giancarlo Cutuli (sax) and Toni Granata (violin). Of course, here composer and lyricist Giuseppe Scaravilli does the lion's share playing almost all the instruments but the result is in perfect continuity with the band sound. In the booklet you can find extended liner notes that explain the genesis of each track while the art cover is taken from a painting by Karl Friedrich Schinkel that in some way describes the spirit of this work...


The opener is the title track, "Trasparenze" (Transparencies), a complex suite with many changes in rhythm and mood featuring some passages that could recall Genesis or Jethro Tull. It's about the passing of time... All along your life there's something or someone that attracts you and shows you the way you have to follow with its perfumes and its fire. You have to go on and on as your age flows away like a short poem, between dreams and reality, led by your will and by the flames of that fire...

Next comes the dreamy "In un attimo" (In a while). It starts with strummed guitar and flute, then the music and lyrics conjure up a long awaited, timeless moment of peace. You have in front of you a white canvas that your are going to fill with the colours of your dreams... You are painting a magic landscape and your soul is flying over there. Your troubles are left behind and you can smile, forgetting for a moment all the problems of everyday life, your mind is already over there...


"Vento d'Oriente" (Wind from the East) features a mysterious, exotic flavour. Heavy electric guitar riffs are mixed with Mediterranean influences while the music and lyrics evoke distant deserts and ancient sands, lost identities and empty realities. Listen to the voice of the wind blowing from the East, it carries echoes of ancient songs and whispers mysterious charms...

"Presagio" (Omen) alternates calm, pastoral sections to heavy riffs and Latin rock passages. It tells of obscure presages looming on the horizon like the thundering sound of the rapids ahead while you are swimming on the calm waters of a river, cradled by the current. Well, you've better keep calm and fight against all the adversities of life without fear...


"Pioggia di maggio" (Rain of May) is a beautiful, dreamy instrumental track full of soaring, delicate melodies. It leads to "La marea" (The tide) that tells in music and words of the contrast between the need to go away searching for a better way of life and the responsibilities that prevent you from leaving, keeping you tightly bound to your routine. You know you have to stay but you feel a strange emptiness growing inside you, maybe one day or another you'll turn your glance back and you'll start running after an idea, following dreams and ideals, drifting with the tide towards new horizons...

"Nel Ricordo" (In the memory) is about the power of fate. Your future turns around you like a dark shadow from whom you can't escape, you'll soon forget who you are because you're already changing and moving forward, you can't help it! The days and the nights you spent are like circles in the water that soon will fade away, the past is going to melt in your memory, you can't cheat on destiny...


"Volo Magico" (Magic flight) is a short instrumental track that conveys a strange sense of mystery. You can hear the sound of the bumblebees around you as you're flying from flower to flower under the charm of exotic perfumes and colourful landscapes... It leads to the nocturnal atmospheres of "Promesse vane" (Vain promises), a piece about a man who feels like an eternal boy and finds difficult to accept his everyday life and the burden of time passing by. Where are the promises of his childhood, what is left of his old dreams? He's burning out and nothing but his fantasy and imagination can set him free from the metaphorical chains of reality and make him happy, at least for a while...

The short, dreamy "Gioco di specchi" (Game of mirrors) is a nice instrumental track that introduces the wonderful suite that closes the album, "Pensieri fragili" (Fragile thoughts), a long, complex piece that every now and again recalls Arti & Mestieri and begins by the sound of a pouring rain... Here the music and lyrics take you back in time to World War I, in a trench along the front between the Kingdom of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Under the rain the thoughts of a young infantry soldier unfurl while the water washes away a desperate night of waiting. Around the soldier there is nothing but mud and fog but he dreams of enchanted valleys and smiling faces that now seem just faded memories... A thousands eyes observe the human fragility from the sky, the soldier feels that the real enemy is inside him, he wants to give up not because of cowardice but because he feels that this war is not his own business. He doesn't care about honour and glory and in the fog he gets stealthily out of his shelter and runs for his life, disappearing in the rain...

On the whole, I think that this is a wonderful album without weak moments that will not disappoint Italianprog fans...

Malibran: Trasparenze (2009). Other opinions:
Chris "Seventhsojourn": Trasparenze is a long album that clocks in at 78-minutes, so you get your money's worth. There's not even much filler on it, with maybe just a couple of slightly weaker songs. My one criticism is that the album is a bit light on keyboards, but the loads of great flute you usually get with Malibran offset this... (read the complete review HERE)

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