Saturday, 20 December 2014

LEARNING TO FLY

Laviàntica come from Rome and their origins date back to the late eighties when was formed Alterego, a band influenced by the neo progressive sounds of Marillion, Twelfth Night, IQ, Pendragon, Ezra Winston and Leviathan. Later the band changed the original name into Laviàntica (which, according to their website, is a contraction of the words "La Via Antica" that can be translated as "The Old Way") to underline their choice to play in a retro style. Anyway, it wasn't until 2013 that the band, after many years of hard work and various problems, managed to self-release a full length debut album with a consolidated line up featuring Marco Palma (electric guitar), Paolo Perilli (bass, vocals), Luciano Stendardi (piano, keyboards), Paolo Musolino (keyboards, acoustic guitar, vocals) and Andrea Schiappelli (drums). During the recording sessions they were helped by some guest musicians such as Alice pelle (vocals), Andrea Bongiovanni (drums) and Laura Senatore (violin) who contributed to enrich the sound and the result is a nice, introspective concept album about the relativity of time entitled Clessidra (Hourglass). The band's melodic vein tends to prevail upon an overtly challenging, adventurous musical approach, but this is not a cheesy album and lovers of neo prog bands from the eighties will undoubtedly appreciate it.

album cover

The opener is the short instrumental "Intro" that sets the atmosphere. The mood is dreamy and the music conjures up a peaceful springtime landscape... "Nel vento" (In the wind) describes in music and words a day stolen from the daily grind and spent in the country. There's an open field covered with dancing flowers and colourful butterflies flying all around. Your hands lightly touch the grass, you can hear the sound of the shaking leaves of a near tree and breathe fresh air. Suddenly you begin to move your hands, maybe you're dreaming to fly, you're taking off... Live and never stop!


Next comes "Sole" (Sun) where the rhythm rises and the music flows with a flapping of wings. The soaring vocals warn you that the horizon is just an illusion and that you have to follow your inner light. A free man is ageless, everyone has a leading soul and a different fate... Then the sound of thunders and pouring rain introduce the following "La pioggia" (The rain), where the music and lyrics invite you to think about the secret messages that the rain can write carving the rock, drop after drop for millennia. From above you can see shining shadows moving in the puddles along the streets, there are people invoking the rain and others fearing its force but who can really understand what the rain has to say?


Then comes the melodic, dreaming "Finché il giorno non finisce" (Until the end of the day) where the music and lyrics invite you to savour every single moment of the day, every instant of your life. Now you can relax and look at a wonderful landscape from a lookout on the seashore but Time is always on the run and it never comes back, your thoughts and feelings soon will become just memories... The following "Icaro" (Icarus) is another nice ballad that celebrates the freedom to fly high toward the sun running after your dreams. Even if you know that you have to come back, for a free heart the desire to fly can never fade...


On "Tempo" (Time) the atmosphere becomes a bit darker. Your beautiful day is coming to an end. Make use of your time because life is short, so try to gather speed and run after your time... Carpe diem! The following "Clessidra" (Hourglass) is light and melancholic. The wheel of time is still in spin, there are shadows and dust clouds running down a metaphorical hourglass in the sky. A night train takes you home but the evening breeze is still carrying thoughts and smells waiting for the moonshine that will reflect them. The long, complex instrumental "Laviantica" (The old way) concludes the album with a solemn pace and a strange atmosphere filled with dreams and memories. 

All in all, this is a really good work that deserves some attention. Have a try and judge by yourselves: you can listen to the complete album HERE. By the way, the download version is slightly different from the CD, without the intro and the sounds that bind all the single tracks together... If you buy the physical copy you'll get both!

Laviàntica: Clessidra (2013). Other opinions:
Steven Reid: For some this album's resistance to stepping up the pace will result in gentle disengagement, but dig below the surface of the (ironically) mid-paced "Tempo", or the long meander of the song from which this band take their name and a real depth and substance can be found, with violins taking up themes and vocals often twisting and turning ideas into new outlooks. It may be a bit depressing that a band whose ideals are firmly stuck in the eighties, can now be seen as traversing the "old ways", but if it results in music as engaging as this, then I don't mind admitting that I must be an old foggie... (read the complete review HERE)


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Saturday, 13 December 2014

THE WHITE SHIP

Nous is the fourth album by Nodo Gordiano, an Italian prog band based in Rome whose roots date back to 1994. It was released in 2014 on the independent label AMS/Btf with a renewed line up featuring founder member Andrea De Luca (bass, guitar, synthesizers) along with Carlo Fattorini (drums, percussion, vibraphone, glockenspiel) and Fabrizio Santoro (electric guitar, synthesizers, bass). Some guest musicians such as Silvia Scozzi (vocals), Gianluca Cottarelli (electric piano) and Valerio Di Giovanni (guitar) took part to the recording sessions and helped the band to enrich their sound. The result is this excellent concept album sui generis where the musicians managed to shape a very personal blend of tradition and new ideas. The artwork, music and lyrics draw dreamy landscapes and beckon you to embark on a voyage for fair unknown shores...

art cover

The opener "Portonovo" begins by a calm, dreamy acoustic passage that reminds me of Francesco Guccini's L'isola non trovata. Soaring vocals conjure up the image of a ship and invite you to casting off and set sail at dawn. You fatherland is over there and your fantasy is already gliding on the sea. Then the rhythm rises, the wind begins to blow and you're carried away by the waves... Well, in some way this track makes me think of a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, The White Ship..."Out of the South it was that the White Ship used to come when the moon was full and high in the heavens. Out of the South it would glide very smoothly and silently over the sea. And whether the sea was rough or calm, and whether the wind was friendly or adverse, it would always glide smoothly and silently, its sails distant and its long strange tiers of oars moving rhythmically...".


"Aion" is a beautiful instrumental track that every now and again recalls Pink Floyd. The image chosen to describe it in the booklet is an ouroboros, a serpent eating its own tail that usually symbolizes something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return. It features spacey, psychedelic atmospheres and dark energies running like hell all along the band's particular wall of sound. Then comes "Apologia del Nolano", a celebration of musical freedom that reminds me slightly of bands such as Area and BMS. The music and lyrics here evoke infinite spaces, nomadic songs breaking free from their prisons, kingdoms of unreachable echoes, uncountable worlds and distant lands where the people speak different languages that you can't understand and where the free breath of your soul can shine brightly.


The ethereal "Nous" is a long, complex instrumental piece full of psychedelic nuances. The image the band chose to describe it in the booklet represents an old, surreal world map... It leads to the dreamy "Officina" where you get lost at dawn on the limit between reveries and reality. Then you enter into a strange, magic workshop where you can exercise your crafts... Next comes the beautiful, alchemical "Arturiana", a charming instrumental track with a mysterious atmosphere described with the image of a sword in a circle and where you can almost perceive the ghosts of King Arthur and his knights of the round table riding through clouds and enchanted woods.

Nodo Gordiano on stage 2014

The closer "Stella Maris" is depicted by a ship sailing across a storming sea. It's another beautiful instrumental piece where the female vocals of Siliva Schiozzi are used as an instrument and seem to evoke the hypnotic singing of a mermaid... "I walked out over the waters to the White Ship on a bridge of moonbeams. The man who had beckoned now spoke a welcome to me in a soft language I seemed to know well, and the hours were filled with soft songs of the oarsmen as we glided away into a mysterious South, golden with the glow of that full, mellow moon..." (H.P. Lovecraft, The White Ship).

On the whole, I think that this is a very good album, an essential one for every Italianprog collector. Anyway, have a try and judge by yourselves!

You can listen to the complete album in streaming HERE

Nodo Gordiano: Nous (2014). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: Adventure, mystery, and a willingness to dive down any possible rabbit hole with a big hearted grin. If prog-rock is about fun and adventure and you don't mind forgoing the "easily accessible" on occasion, then you're likely to enjoy this one... (read the complete review HERE)
Michael "Aussie-Byrd-Brother": Although predominantly a space rock album, the band still work in classic vintage RPI/Italian prog traits, psych flavours and progressive-electronic traditions, driven by raging electric and ragged acoustic guitar, droning electronics and plentiful use of the mighty Mellotron! With cover art that suggests exploration and uncharted courses of an earthly kind, what the band really delivers aims straight for the furthest reaches of deep space... (read the complete review HERE)



Tuesday, 9 December 2014

IN FRONT OF THE MIRROR

The roots of Entity date back to 1994 when Gigi Longu and Mauro Mulas, two skilled musicians based in Cagliari, formed the original nucleus of the band. After many years of hard work, personnel changes, some demos and a good live activity, in 2013 the band finally released an official full length album on the independent label Lizard Records with a consolidated line up featuring Mauro Mulas (keyboards), Gigi Longu (bass, guitar), Marco Panzino (drums), Marcello Mulas (guitars) and Sergio Calafiura (vocals). It's titled Il falso centro (The false centre) and is a conceptual work about an identity crisis based upon some introspective poems written by Yuri Deriu, an old friend of the band, that form a kind of screenplay that the musicians interpret with passion and enthusiasm. The music is rich in ideas, the influences range from classical music to jazz, from the Italian prog masters of the seventies to more recent sounds and the final result is excellent. If you like bands such as Le Orme or Il Banco del Mutuo Soccorso I'm sure you'll enjoy this album as well.

album cover

The opener "Davanti allo specchio" (In front of the mirror) is a charming instrumental piece that sets the atmosphere. It starts by an oblique waltz, you can imagine a kind of ghastly dance in front of a mirror where you can have a close look at your face and try to dig in your hidden thoughts. It's a perfect introduction to the following "Il desiderio" (Desire), a long, complex track where melancholia and desire run one after each other on a dangerous path leading nowhere. Are you really what you appear to be? Now you're nothing but an empty shape, drawn away by a vortex of passions, unable to break through the protective shell where you are trapped. Your desires are a continuous renewal of old wounds, they are burning you out but you can't help it, you are not able to stop, to come back from a labyrinth with no exit door... The music is powerful and evocative, the heartfelt vocal parts convey emotions and feelings... A great track!

"Il tempo" (Time) is a dark, melancholic piece about time passing by. The atmosphere is ethereal and perfectly fits the poetical force of the lyrics. Time is a great deceiver and too often it doesn't keep its promises, so you beg useless delays, lost in an endless waiting. You keep your memories in your heart, you keep your head down, you're always busy but you know that this is nothing but an alibi. It's like if you were flying into the glass of a window like a fly while the days inexorably fall from your hands like sand in an hourglass...


The music of the beautiful "Il trip dell'ego" (Ego trip) recalls Le Orme and their brilliant counterpoints while the short vocal part evokes the loss of the sense of identity and a lack of direction. Then comes the romantic "ANT", a piece dealing with ideal, eternal love and the alchemy of feelings. It begins by a beautiful piano pattern, then Procol Harum could come to mind while the music and lyrics paint deep emotional landscapes, dreams carried away by liquid sentences and getting drowned in a lake of words, poisoned by troubled thoughts and desire.

The disquieting "L'armatura" (The armour) opens with grazing electric guitar riffs and dark organ waves conjuring up a nightmarish atmosphere. Your sweet-hart, your idealized love is gone and you feel the need of a shield to protect you from a falling sky, you feel like a trunk after a shipwreck, you're floating on the waves of life thanks to natural laws and not because of your will. But your armour is melting, you can't run away from your faults, you can't deceive yourself anymore, now you look in the mirror and for the first time you begin to perceive your real face...

Entity on stage 2010

The delicate, cathartic "La notte oscura dell'anima" (The dark night of the soul) concludes the album and comes like the calm after the storm, on the notes of a nocturnal piano passage. Finally, in a dark winter night you feel empty and distant from everything. Now you wear no armour but you feel lighter without the weight of your ego: a part of you is dead but you can start a new life with a new awareness...

Well, on he whole I think that this is a really good album, full of musical nuances and poetical strength: a must-have for very Italianprog collection!


Entity: Il falso centro (2014). Other opinions:
Uwe Zickel "Rivertree": Well, currently there's a lot going on, speaking of the Rock Progressivo Italiano genre. While offering fine melodies and an entertaining flow ENTITY turns out to be a real shooting star, this album certainly belongs to the Crème de la Crème... (read the complete review HERE)
Michael "Aussie-Byrd-Brother": 'Il Falso Centro' is simply one of the most self-assured, confident and downright bombastic Italian debuts of recent years, and the band perform with truly envious power and skill gained from the almost twenty years of honing their craft leading up to this work... (read the complete review HERE)

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