Monday, 19 January 2015

A DISQUIETING TRAVELOGUE

Festa Mobile were one of the many Italian prog bands of the early seventies who disbanded soon after the release of an excellent debut album in 1973. The line-up featured Renato Baldassarri (vocals), Francesco Boccuzzi (bass, keyboards), Giovanni Boccuzzi (keyboards), Alessio Alba (guitar) and Maurizio Cobianchi (drums). The Boccuzzi brothers later formed another band called Il Baricentro, more “jazz-rock oriented”. On “Diario di viaggio della Festa Mobile” the band showcase a great musicianship although the sound quality from the recording sessions is not flawless. Festa Mobile are often compared with BMS, PFM, Le Orme and other “classic” Italian prog bands: you can find here many influences ranging from classical music to jazz, from British prog rock to Italian folklore, but the final result is original enough and it’s definitely worth listening to.


Diario di viaggio della Festa Mobile” is a concept album where the band describes in music and words the experience of a company of comedians returning home after the celebrations in honour of the new king of a far (imaginary) country, Hon. The opener “La corte di Hon” (Hon’s court) is introduced by a dizzy piano pattern, then a frenzied rhythm section and vocals come in... The lyrics depict the atmosphere of false joy put up by the oppressive power of the new king... “Hon’s celebration lasts hundred days / For a hundred days the sun won’t set / Hon sits on his throne / The moving feast lives on / It seems a celebration of love / But it’s just a false mask... Peace seems to rule / But it’s war that rules... It seemed a celebration of love / But it was a celebration of death...”.

On the second track “Canto” (Song), the comedians end their performance in honour of Hon singing a song inspired by their extraordinary travelling experience and by the contrast between an ideal world full of love and peace and the cruel reality... “I sing the colours of time and the rhythm of the wind / That are living in me... I sing the story of happy people living in ingenuity... I sing the future I dream / A new day that’s lost and will never come...”. The rhythm is complex and fiery while the vocals depict a dream that turns into a nightmare...


On the third track “Aristea” the mood is more relaxed, almost mystic. After the celebration, our “heros” are on the way home. They stop to rest in a mysterious abbey where the great priestess Aristea silently looks at their hands and reveals them a prophecy... “You will go there / Where the sun doesn’t shine / Where men do not know happiness...”. So they become aware that freedom is in danger even in their homeland. Well, you can feel almost a sense of impending doom at the end of the track when a “nervous” rhythm section comes in...

The fourth track is about despair and mercy. “Ljalja” tells about the meeting with a young girl crying in a country ravaged by war. She was still clasping her dead son in her hands, she was still a child but without a future... “Then slowly she smiled / She couldn’t speak anymore...”.

Festa Mobile

The long, complex last track “Ritorno” (Return) tells of the return and of the fear that the protagonists feel since they are aware that what they have seen during their journey could happen in their homeland too... It’s like waking up with a nightmare still hanging on: “We were travelling back to home / And the souvenirs in our minds seemed made of stone / Red stone from the innocent’s blood / People who died in the name of their truth / Martyrs of Hon and of the dream of a new reality / Under a different sky we’re looking at home again... Where sooner or later Hon will come / With the rules of the strongest...”. 



 

Monday, 12 January 2015

A CRIMINAL SHOW

Noianoir is the second full length album by Neapolitan band I Pennelli di Vermeer. It was financed though the crowd-founding platform Produzioni dal Basso and released in 2014 on the independent label Marotta & Cafiero Recorder with a renewed line up featuring Pasquale Sorrentino (vocals, guitars, ukulele), Stefania Aprea (vocals), Pasquale Palomba (guitars), Raffaele Polimeno (piano, keyboards, Moog), Maurizio D'Antonio (bass), Marco Sorrentino (drums, vocals). The album was recorded with the help of some guest musicians such as Enrico Vicinanza (countertenor), Giovanni Vicinanza (electric guitar), Antonio Ostuni (electric guitar), Rosario Federico (Theremin), Fulvio Di Nocera (double bass), Catello Tucci (cello) and Ilario Ruopolo (violin) and features a nice artwork by Antonella Ruggiero. It's a concept album about a mysterious case of murder that media manipulate and transform into a kind of TV show where reality and fiction are mixed. Musically, this work is a funny, colourful patchwork with a strong theatrical approach, but beware! Not everything works and prog lovers could be puzzled and disappointed by the too many different influences that the band tried to put in their musical cocktail, ranging from surf and reggae to opera, funky, country rock and world music. There are some good ideas but in some way they are scattered all around and the result is not really cohesive: there are no recurring themes nor leitmotifs, even if all the tracks are linked together and conceived to tell a story. But, of course, the storyline is meant as a sarcastic criticism against trash TV and the overwhelming gossip of tabloids and press in general, so this could be just the right choice to underline the lyrics...


The short, promising "Ouverture" sets the atmosphere describing people without ideals who feel void and bored, a generation of web and TV children who are lurking around like werewolves. It leads to "Ray Chat" that recalls the Beach Boys (but with some renaissance sprinkles) and describes one of the protagonists of the story: the murderer, a boy obsessed by the internet.

On "Mrs Rose" you can hear the first news of the murder broadcast by the media. The corpse was found at the NoiaNoir Hotel, room number 33, then there's a description of the victim: thirty-three years old, a very peculiar soubrette, a social phenomenon and a femme fatale with a dubious background. Here the music combines reggae and opera, then a short instrumental intermezzo leads to a change and to the lively violin passages and oblique country rock of "Scoop" that portrays a journalist on his way to the crime scene and the instruction of his editor: well, pain is gold if you know how to exploit it!


"Boredom" is a dark, sarcastic ballad that stigmatizes the need of blood to suffocate the infectious sense of boredom of so many people in a society that suffers of the lack of ideals. Media exploit this phenomenon like in the cases of Cogne or Avetrana... The following "Orrido Tour" is a swinging musical scherzo that reminds me of the Quartetto Cetra, an Italian vocal quartet established during the 1940s. Here the ironic lyrics depict the phenomenon of the so called turismo dell'orrore, a peculiar kind of tourism bound to famous crime scenes.

The sound of police cars hooters introduces the following "La Paura" (Fear) that describes in a funny but effective way the feeling of fear and suspect spreading after a cruel, bloody crime amplified by the media. Eventually the investigation becomes a frenzied hunt that could lead to errors under the media pressure. Beware! Collective madness could drive someone to state that you are the monster, even if you are not guilty at all... Next comes the funky "Torquemada" that describes the detective in charge of the investigation, a nervous and unscrupulous inspector in hurry to find a culprit...


"Mostrografia" is a nice ballad where you can hear the media broadcasting the news of the arrest of the murderer and the hysteric reaction of the public. Then an ethereal instrumental intermezzo leads to "Criminal boy", where the music draws on a west coast daydream while the lyrics try to explain the reason of the crime. Some people kills to become famous, others just because they have to eat, some play the role of the executioner and later pray, others kill just because of boredom, without a real reason... You can't never be sure since you can't read a criminal mind!

The bluesy "Show case" describes the trial transformed into a TV show, with witness and protagonists acting like cinema stars, walking on the red carpet. The calm "Animi anonimi" (Anonymous souls) concludes the album with a bitter-sweet reflection about boredom and a merciless daily grind that anaesthetizes our consciousness.

On the whole, an interesting work where the band showcase good musicianship and many fresh ideas but that in my opinion is difficult to appreciate if you don't understand the lyrics and the storyline. Anyway, judge by yourselves: you can listen to the complete album in streaming HERE

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