Friday, 8 June 2018

MORTAR AND CONCRETE

La Malta Bastarda were formed in 2002 in San Giovanni in Persiceto, a small town in the province of Bologna. The name of the band refers to a kind of mortar, a workable paste used to bind building blocks and concrete masonry units together, fill and seal the irregular gaps between them, and sometimes add decorative colours or patterns in masonry walls. In same way the name describes their music, a particular mix of jazz, prog, classical, avant-garde and surreal poetry. After many years of hard work, some line up changes, a good live activity on the local scene and three self-produced demos entitled La Malta Bastarda (2002), Palude (2005) and Beata ignoranza (2012), in 2016 the band released their eponymous first official album on the independent label A Simple Lunch with a line up featuring Luca Ferrigno (vocals), Benedetto Ferrigno (synth, backing vocals), Elisa Sala (marimba, trombone, percussion), Carlo S. Tedeschi (clarinet, sax), Marcello Melotti (keyboards), Davide Cotti (guitars), Daniele Cosmi (bass), Lorenzo Scagliarini (drums) plus the guest Karl Segnoe (bandoneon, narrative vocals) on two tracks. It’s an interesting work that every now and again could recall other bands from Emilia such as Akt or Deus Ex Machina…


The opener “00” is just a short introduction that leads to the sarcastic “Musica delle sfere” (Music of the spheres), a track that invites you to wake up and leave behind abstract dreams and fantasies, fairy tales and animated cartoons. The music veers from calm passages to frenzied, almost hysteric moments with Balkan explosions of sounds and energy à la Goran Bregovic while the vocals are theatrical and passionate and could recall of Alvaro Fella from Jumbo. It’s a peculiar kind of social criticism suggesting that it might be easier smashing and milling a camel to make it pass through the eye of a needle than to change the evil in human nature... 

The jazzy “Polipi” (Polyps) compares the end of a troubled relationship to the image of two polyps in a sushi bar that, on the brink of death, are still trying to reach each other tentacles, separated by a thin thread of horseradish sauce. Then it’s the turn of the dark “Ma che bello è” (How beautiful is) that tells of five dead scoundrels whose corpses are lying underwater, at the bottom of a lake, in a kind of restless sleep. But every night they come to life again to stroll in the streets of the near town enjoying their new nightlife after death… Here the music has some hints of zehul ad a strong theatrical approach.

La Malta Bastarda on stage, 2017 

Then comes the lively, ironic “Fagotto” (Bundle) that reminds me of Fabrizio De Andrè with its tarantella rhythm and folksy atmosphere. The lyrics are about hidden shame and guilt and their contrast with people appearances and values while the following “Fasti#” is a funny reflection about music and the importance of the black keys to stir emotions.

Then, the funny “Fango” (Mud) blends blues, waltzes and diabolic tangos, Latin shadows and Mediterranean flavours while the disquieting “Robottini” (Little robots) deals with consumerism and production, machines and human work, telling of a new sophisticated robot that could replace even journalists and reporters...

The closer “Mr. Valdemar” was inspired by "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar", a short story by Edgar Allan Poe about a scientist who puts a man in a suspended hypnotic state at the moment of death. It’s another good piece that mixes dark atmospheres and sarcasm in a peculiar, original way.

On the whole, a very good work! You can listen to the complete album HERE

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Monday, 7 May 2018

SILENT COLOURS


Illusioni (Illusions) is the second album by Quarto Vuoto, a talented band from Mogliano Veneto, in the province of Treviso. It follows the excellent eponymous debut work from 2014 and was released in 2017 on the independent label Lizard Records with a renewed line up featuring Edoardo Ceron (bass), Nicola D'Amico (drums), Mattia Scomparin (keyboards, piano) and Luca Volonnino (guitar) plus some guests. In fact, in 2015 Federico Lorenzon (vocals, violin) left the band and wasn’t replaced but during the recording sessions Giulio Dalla Mora (sax) and Mauro Spinazzé (violin) gave their contribute to enrich the sound on some tracks.



The new album is completely instrumental and the images provided by Lorenzo Giolin’s wonderful art work in some way take the place of the lyrics in describing the concept behind the music. According to the band, all the pieces have a meaning, a story to tell, but the listener is free to interpret them with the help of his own imagination and sensitivity… Through our music we want to tell and describe the perception that men have of the reality that surrounds them... The six tracks represent different phases of human perception...

The dreamy opener “Nei colori del silenzio” (In the colours of silence) is calm and nocturnal. The music tries to evoke the innocence of childhood and the power of imagination typical of that age. An animated cartoon video directed by Lorenzo Giolin himself was shot to comment this piece and to represent its magic...



The following “Coscienza sopita” (Asleep consciousness) is nervous and tense. It tries to depict the spirit of rebellion of youth and the awareness of maturity, when the daily grind begins to produce its effects and starts to wear you out. The picture in the booklet portrays the lights and shadows of a big city at night. Behind the window of a lighted office there’s a bent man, he seems tired. That office might be his cage...

The long, melancholic “Impasse” tries to evoke the difficulties that you have to tackle in your life, the obstacles that you have to overcome. In the booklet, in the picture chosen to comment this piece you can see a bizarre world of flying rocks connected by ropes and crumbling bridges...


Quarto Vuoto 2017

The title of the following “Apofis” (Apophis) refers to the ancient Egyptian deity who embodied chaos and was thus the opponent of light and Ma'at (order/truth). This piece starts with sudden bursts of energy, the mood is dark and seems to mark the explosion of a deep crises. Then a calm jazzy passage follows with a sax solo evoking nostalgia and regret. As the music flows, there are many other changes in rhythm and atmosphere where you can perceive growing tension, rage but also positive memories. Here the picture in the booklet with its explosion of colours on a spectral background evokes a world falling apart in an infinite space...


The reflective “Due io” (Two I) seems to evoke the wisdom and calm of the old age. The atmosphere here is almost mystical while the picture in the booklet marks the contradictions of the life in a big city where lighted skyscrapers contrast with the hidden underground net. This piece comes like the calm after the storm...

The closer “Tornerò” (I’ll come back) begins by a beautiful soaring violin passage and a nice melodic pattern. It’s a wonderful track that marks the come back to the origins, a reflection about the sense of a life that is coming to an end. What will remain of us in the afterlife? Of course, there’s no answer. It’s just a starting point for a reflection while the world is turning upside down… Set your imagination free!

On the whole, I think that this is a really good album!


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Sunday, 15 April 2018

A SOLAR RIDE

Agorà 2 is the second album by Agorà and their first studio work. It was released in 1976 with a renewed line up featuring Roberto Bacchiocchi (keyboards), Ovidio Urbani (sax), Renato Gasparini (guitar), Mauro Mencaroni (drums), Nino Russo (sax, percussion) and Lucio Cesari (bass, percussion) and marks a step forward for the band that here is clearly focused on refining their jazz-rock sound showcasing a strong leaning for experimentalism and great musicianship. The wonderful artwork by Mario Convertino in some way captures this attitude with a nice black and white drawing...


The dreamy opener “Punto Rosso” (Red Point) is a nice, accessible track with a great interaction between all the instruments that every now and again could recall The Mahavishnu Orchestra. The following “Piramide di domani” (Pyramid of Tomorrow) starts calmly by hypnotic bass lines and a good acoustic guitar work, then the other instruments come in building a mysterious atmosphere sprinkled with exotic flavours. 

The long, melancholic “Tall El Zaatar” ends the first side of the original vinyl. Here the title refers to the tragic siege of Tel al-Zaatar, a fortified, UNRWA-administered refugee camp housing Palestinian refugees in north-eastern Beirut that was carried out by Phalangist forces in August 1976. It’s a kind of committed jazz elegy in memory of the victims...


The second side of the album opens with “La bottega di Duilio” (Duilio’s workshop) that, according to an interview with Ovidio Urbani, was inspired by a man who owned a workshop near the rehearsal room of the band in Serra San Quirico, a very special character in the life of that little town. The piece starts by a percussive pattern that introduces you in his strange laboratory and ironmonger’s shop... 

“Simbiosi (Vasi comunicanti)” (Symbiosis – Communicating vessels) was built up starting from a piano improvisations in the studio by Roberto Bacchiocchi and then elaborated with contribute of the other members of the band in a perfect symbiosis. In fact, the subtitle of this track refers to the name given to a set of containers containing a homogeneous fluid: when the liquid settles, it balances out to the same level in all of the containers regardless of the shape and volume of the containers. If additional liquid is added to one vessel, the liquid will again find a new equal level in all the connected vessels. Here this principle is applied to the music...


The long closer “Cavalcata solare” (Solar ride) is a kind of psychedelic jazz ride through the space. It starts slowly, then the rhythm rises for a long journey into unknown territories and forgotten dreamlands. This track was also released as a single and ends an album that is really worth listening to.

Unfortunately, despite the good quality of their music, Agorà disbanded in 1978 on account of the difficulties to make a living in the troubled, asphyxial Italian music business of the years of lead… 

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Agorà: Agorà 2 (1976). Other opinions:
Conor Fynes: Agorà never seems to stray needlessly, but the music often feels driven more by exploration than composition. The saxophone and Rhodes piano are given the most range here, with the thoughtfully melodic leads of the former generally paving the way on most of the songs… Even during the album's most laid-back passages, Agorà offer plenty to keep the attentive listener occupied. The approach to composition has clearly been designed with the intent of giving the instrumentation room to breathe and explore, but the way the music will always fall back on thick, band-oriented harmonies keeps the album feeling focused… It's not often a 'new' jazz band impresses me like this; if you're any bit into the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the jazzier end of Van der Graaf Generator or the classic sound of prog-fusion in general, check out this album and see what you think of it… (You can read the complete review HERE)

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