Monday, 18 May 2015

RED SHADOWS

From Rock Progressivo Italiano: An introduction to Italian Progressive Rock

Goblin were formed in Rome in 1974. The line-up on their debut album, released in 1975, featured Massimo Morante (guitar, vocals), Claudio Simonetti (keyboards), Fabio Pignatelli (bass) and Walter Martino (drums, percussion) who replaced the original drummer Carlo Bordini. All the members of the band had previously played in other acts such as Oliver, Il Ritratto di Dorian Gray and Seconda Generazione that never had the chance to record an album. The turning point of Goblin’s career was meeting film director Dario Argento who recruited them for the soundtrack of “Profondo rosso” (Deep Red), one of his most successful films.


Murders, blood, mystery but also music and humour are some of the ingredients of this extraordinary thriller that tells the story of an English musician, Marcus Daly (played by David Hemmings) who, after witnessing the murder of a famous psychic, gets involved in the crime investigations teaming up with a female reporter. Actually, the soundtrack was initially commissioned to Italian jazz musician Giorgio Gaslini but he didn’t fulfil his task (in that period he was involved in other projects) and the band managed to complete it in an excellent manner. The music perfectly fits the scenes on screen adding tension and rhythm to dialogues and images. Both film and score were extremely successful and the name of the band became indelibly associated with this thriller and its strong colours.


Both film and album begin with the notes of the dark, hypnotic title track, by far the best known Goblin piece. The album is completely instrumental but images can be even stronger than words... If you haven’t seen the film try to imagine a cradle tumbling down, a rag doll tortured with pins, some strange direful puppets, then marbles, knives and daggers, a single eye watching you... A face reflected in a pool of blood, deep red! “Sometimes what you really see and what you imagine getting mixed up in your memory like a cocktail and you can’t distinguish the different flavours anymore...” (1).


The next track “Death Dies” is more aggressive and is associated with scenes of murders in the film. Flashing blades and leather gloves in action, blood stains and gloomy puppets come to mind while the music flows nervous and tense... 
 
Mad Puppet” could recall Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” and it’s a perfect background for the exploration of a villa haunted by ghosts and dark memories or for a visit to a deserted school in the middle of the night while a psychopathic murderer is lurking...


Wild Session” begins with sound effects and the wind blowing. There is a presence... “I feel something like a blade entering my flesh...” (2). An evil thought is still hanging in the room when the rhythm takes off on the notes of a haunting piano pattern...

Deep Shadows” is disquieting and dark. It features peculiar percussive patterns and many changes in rhythm. Stop and listen, let your imagination drive you through a corridor full of mirrors and strange paintings... Then imagine climbing up the wall of a mysterious house looking for a missing window... It’s dark, you risk falling, be cautious while moving like a clumsy acrobat, there’s a threatening presence observing what you’re doing...


The last two tracks were composed by Giorgio Gaslini and feature orchestral arrangements. “School At Night” is a nursery rhyme that in the film is linked to the perverted mind of a serial killer. “Gianna” is light and romantic and in the film is associated to the character of female journalist Gianna Brezzi. A good way to conclude a 30 minute ride on the edge of folly.

Goblin’s debut album was not only successful but also very influential on the whole Italian music scene... A must for every Italian prog lover! By the way, the re-release on CD features unreleased tracks from the film score and from the sessions...

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(1) - (2): Words taken from a dialogue in the film

 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

THE BRAND OF THE WITCH

Strigma is the fourth studio album by the Roman band Taproban. It was released in 2013 on the French label Musea Records with a renewed line up featuring, along with founder member and main composer Gianluca De Rossi (keyboards, flute, vocals), a brand new rhythm section formed by Roberto Vitelli (bass, electric guitar, synthesizer) and Francesco Pandico (drums, percussion) who replaced Guglielmo Mariotti and Davide Guidoni. According to the band, the title is a crasis that blends two Latin words: strix (witch) and stigma (brand). It was inspired by the idea of the element of fire associated with women and in some way this concept was developed through music, images and words. The album is almost completely instrumental but the beautiful art cover by Daniela Ventrone and the art work by Gianluca De Rossi that you can find in the booklet can give you a clue of what the music is about. Well, the overall sound could recall bands such as Le Orme, Goblin or Banco del Mutuo Soccorso but the band showcase great personality and freshness blending vintage sounds and original ideas...


The long, complex opener "Nesia al notturno congresso delle streghe" (Nesia at the night meeting of the witches) alternates calm, dreamy passages to fiery sections where obscure energies and warm colours take you in the whirls of the infernal dance portrayed by the painting on the cover, entitled “La Danza delle fiamme” (Dance of the flames). There are no lyrics but in the booklet you can find a drawing that describes this track with a mysterious blackbird perched on the branch of a spectral tree and below some words in Latin: concurrentia ad maleficia nefandissima in genus humanum opera venefica... Welcome to the Sabbath! Anyway, do not expect black metal growls or frenzied heavy riffs, here the music goes through many changes in atmosphere and rhythm but never leaves its oneiric, almost poetical dimension and there's more mysticism than violence or luxury in this esoteric dance.

Taproban on stage 2014

Next comes the instrumental "Lo sguardo di Emily" (Emily's glance) that starts with a sudden surge of energy. The band chose an image of Cupid's bow to describe this piece. In classical mythology, Cupid is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection. His bow and arrow represent his source of power and everyone who is shot by Cupid's arrow is filled with uncontrollable desire. So you can guess that Emily is a woman burning with love and longing for a romantic waltz, her glances are like flames trying to melt the cold desert of a meaningless life... Let the music drive and let Emily's eyes draw you away for a little while!


The last track is a nearly 19 minute epic, "La porta nel buio" (The door in the dark). It's a wonderful suite divided into six parts with many changes in rhythm and atmosphere where you can listen to some fantastic keyboard passages. It starts softly, you can hear the noise of a door creaking on its hinges, the atmosphere is almost hypnotic. There's a door in the dark, but what kind of door? Are you dreaming? There's something that you can't understand... The rhythm rises, the mood is disquieting, tense. You're scared and you try to run away at breakneck speed, down the stairs... But you get lost, you're still in the dark... Will you ever see the light again? You're desperately looking for a way out that you can't find, you're freezing inside and you don't know why, you can't see where you are. Is it nightmare or reality? You're alone and Gianluca De Rossi evocative vocals lead you into the fortress of the solitude, amid rag men and broken dolls... Will you ever leave it? The last part of the suite suggests that there's a way to escape and that you can break through... A great track! Although Le Orme influence looms large over this piece of great spiritual and musical grace, this it is not a recreation of the past and the songwriting is absolutely brilliant...

Taproban on stage 2014

On the whole, I really like this work. If you like modern progressive rock that’s based on classic prog, you really have to check this album out!


Taproban: Strigma (2013). Other opinions:
Michael "Aussi-Byrd-Brother": "Strigma" is a triumph for lovers of the usual Italian sophistication, with complex arrangements and consumate playing, wrapped in an intoxicating darker mood that's perfect for night-time listening... (read the complete review HERE)


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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

AND THE MUSIC GOES...

Posto Blocco 19 (the name means Check-point 19) began life in the province of Parma in 1972 under the name Collettivo Musicale Collecchiese on the initiative of a group of friends in love with the music of bands such as Premiata Forneria Marconi, Santana or Deep Purple. The band had been active until 1983 but during their early days they never had the chance to release an album and their only record was a single released in 1981, when progressive rock was considered a genre completely out of fashion. After a long hiatus the band came back to life in 2005 but it wasn't until 2014 that they could release a first full length album on the independent label Lizard Records. It's titled "Motivi di sempre" and collects the band's most significant pieces re-arranged and some new tracks recorded with a renewed line up featuring along with founder members Raimondo Fantuzzi (guitar, vocals) and Vittorio Salvi (drums) also Francesca Campagna (vocals), Massimo Casaro (bass), Stefano Savi (percussion) and Graziano De Palma (keyboards). The result of their efforts is excellent and the beautiful art work taken from some paintings by Teo De Palma (father of the keyboardist) in some way reflects the music and lyrics with its soft colours and dreamy mood.


The opener "A un passo dal cielo (suite 1)" (One step to the sky) is a brilliant instrumental track that recalls the best tradition of Italian Progressive Rock and takes you back in time with its positive energy, its warm organ waves and the soaring electric guitar solos...


The following "E la musica va" (And the music goes) was originally released in 1981 and here is dressed up in new colours and revitalized by the new line up. It's a song about racism and multi-ethnic conflicts and some melodic lines remind me of an Italian band called I Nomadi. The lyrics conjure up the images of shooting men, soldiers in an unwanted war who are nothing but pawns in the game of mischievous, unscrupulous politicians. Blacks and poor people do not fear to get killed, they're just blood and tears, love and death... Try to imagine the corpse of one of these men lying in the dust. He was just a tramp, a poet, a free spirit who used to fly high on the wings of love. The evocative music and the soaring vocals tell about hate and nostalgia mixing the colours of a scared painter...


Next comes the dreamy "All'alba del giorno dopo" (At dawn on the day after) that invites you to stop running after this crazy, busy world and to enjoy your life seizing every fleeting moment. The visionary lyrics tell that you can let your dreams drive... The past is gone but you can ride on new horizons towards crystal lakes, you can travel through far deserts and clear skies until you'll find in a legendary treasure box the ancient fairy tales that will make you lord of the castle of triumph allowing you to tame new planets on the course of your flying ships...


"Scandendo il tempo" (Beating time) was originally released in 2011 on the Musea-Colossus compilation "Decameron Part 1". This piece was re-recorded in 2014 by the new line up and the vocalist Francesca Campagna here brings new energies and freshness. It starts softly, the mood is dreamy and the music is calm while the poetical lyrics deal with the relativity of time and space. Try to imagine the wind riding raging sea waves in the dark while the borders between reality and imagination get blurred... Then image some flocks of birds on the wires: they are like notes coming from deep throats while they're looking at falling stars and distant planets, sparks in an abstract universe... 

Then comes the beautiful instrumental "A un passo dal cielo (suite 2)" that in some way closes the circle of your daydreams and takes you back to Earth with its delicate Mediterranean flavours and Latin rhythms.


The last piece, "L'ultima acqua" (The last water), is credited as a bonus track and was originally released in 2010 on another Musea-Colossus compilation, "The Divine Comedy Part III - Dante's Paradiso". It was remastered in 2014 and features Bernardo Lanzetti (vocals) and Giancarlo Di Bella (keyboards). The band here interpret with heartfelt passion and personality the spirit of the immortal lines by the sommo poeta... "On the edge of the last water seize the hope / At the right time many will return...". A great track!

On the whole, I think that this is a really good album. Every now and again the music could recall bands such as Premiata Fornaria Marconi, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso or Il Castello di Atlante but Posto Blocco 19 are not just emulators playing by rote and they do not sound derivative. I'm sure that this album will be an excellent addition to any Italianprog collection!


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