domenica 20 aprile 2014

DARK SIDE OF A LADY

Empirical Time come from Padua and began life in 2011 on the initiative of Riccardo Scarparo and Andrea Baggio. Their aim was the recording of original compositions with the use of classical and electric instruments, inspired by bands such as Pink Floyd, Genesis or Premiata Forneria Marconi, and featuring lyrics taken or inspired by poetry and literature. After a first demo in 2011, they released a début album in 2013, titled Songs, Poems And A Lady, on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records, with a line up featuring Riccardo Scarparo (keyboards, lead vocals), Andrea Baggio (bass), Federico Galleani (guitars, vocals), Giovanni Croatto (guitars, vocals) and Robert Anthony Jameson (drums, vocals). Thanks to the help of their producer Mike 3rd and to the mastering by Ronan Chris Murphy, the sound quality is excellent although, in my opinion, the music every now and again seems a bit too derivative. As suggested by the cover, this is a concept album dedicated to a mysterious Lady, a muse with many faces, a strange character to discover...


In fact, the album begins by five tracks taken from The Lucy Poems, a series of poems composed by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth between 1798 and 1801. In the series, Wordsworth examines the poet's unrequited love for the idealised character of Lucy, an English girl who has died young. The idea of her death weighs heavily on the poet throughout the series, imbuing it with a melancholic, elegiac tone. Whether Lucy was based on a real woman or was a fruit of the poet's imagination has long been a matter of debate among scholars. Generally reticent about the poems, Wordsworth never revealed the details of her origin or identity... Most critics agree that she is essentially a literary device upon whom he could project, meditate and reflect... (from Wikipedia)


The first piece is taken from “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal”. The music initially recalls Pink Floyd's dark side of the moon, but then sudden surges of keyboards light the fire and bring in some EL&P reminiscences sweeping out fears and shadows... Next comes the ethereal “Strange Fits Of Passion”, a long track that every now and again reminds me of an Australian band called Augie March... Then “She Dwelt Among The Untrodden Ways” features a slow pace and melancholic tones and leads to “Three Years She Grew In Sun And Shower”, another complex piece where Pink Floyd influences are apparent although filtered with a personal touch and a pinch of tarantella. The nocturnal “I Travelled Among Unknown Men” concludes the part of the album dedicated to the poetry of Wordsworth, infused with abstract ideals of beauty, nature, love, longing and death... “I travelled among unknown men / In lands beyond the sea / Nor, England! Did I know till then / What love I bore to thee...”.


Lucy is a name that is usually associated with sky and diamonds. Well, on “Diamond Lady Pt. 1” diamonds are the symbol of the multifaceted personality of the mysterious woman who inspired the album. The music, again, recalls Pink Floyd but with some touches of exoticism that contribute to add some strange, disquieting colours to the portrait of the lady. With the excellent instrumental “Untamed”, the dreamy “Overshadowed Breathing” and “Diamond Lady Pt. 2” it forms a kind of suite full of shadows and lights. By the way, for the demo version of “Diamond Lady Pt.1”, in 2012 the band shot a video directed by Nicola Schito and starring Stefania Fornasier...


Two short instrumental tracks linked together, “Whispers From The Past” and “Dancing On Saturno” conclude the album with waves of dark energy and some bright, soaring melodic passages.

On the whole, I think that this is an interesting work but I'm sure that this band will do even better in the future.

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giovedì 17 aprile 2014

TIME OF PASSION

Latte e Miele began life in Genoa in 1971 with a first line-up featuring Giancarlo Marcello Della Casa (electric and acoustic guitar, violin, bass, lead vocals), Oliviero Lacagnina (piano, organ, harpsichord, moog, mellotron, celesta, vocals) and Alfio Vitanza (drums, cymbals, bells, flute, vocals). In 1971 guitarist Giancarlo Marcello Della Casa also took part, with other guest musicians, in the recording sessions of I Giganti’s album “Terra in bocca”. This experience seems to have influenced also Latte e Miele’s debut album, “Passio Secundum Mattheum”, a concept work where clear classical influences blend with rock, classical music and beautiful melodies. Well, “Passio Secundum Mattheum” is also the title of a classical work by J.S. Bach, but this album is not its “rock version”. The lyrics drew inspiration from the Gospel according to St. Matthew and they are absolutely “politically correct”, you can’t find here the boldness and the poetical inventions of “Terra in bocca” (an album completely “built upon the lyrics”) or of Fabrizio De Andrè’s album “La buona novella” (a conceptual work inspired by the apocryphal gospels). Here the lyrics seem to be just a feeble thread binding together a good musical patchwork, but the result is not always convincing. By the way, Latte e Miele were the very first rock band to perform in the Vatican City in front of the Pope, no wonder then if the narrative parts every now and again seem just to come out from a “Catholic mass”...


The short instrumental opener “Introduzione” (Introduction) sets the atmosphere starting with a church-like choir, then shy echoes of Bolero come in leading to a beautiful crescendo featuring a good electric guitar solo. Next comes “Il giorno degli azzimi” (The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread) and “Ultima cena” (The last supper), closely bound together. An acoustic guitar arpeggio and a dreamy mood are the background for narrative vocals and sung parts where the band interacts with an operatic choir... “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples and Jesus prepared the Passover...”. The lead vocals and choir interpret the voices of the disciples and Jesus while a narrator is in charge of the spoken parts... While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples... “The bread you will break will be your body shared for us / The wine you will pour will be your blood spilled for us...”. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said... “One of you will betray me...”. The disciples were very sad and began to say to him one after the other... “Surely not I, Lord?”. The voices of the disciples seem to come from an opera, there’s surprise and brio, then the rhythm calms down...

Judas, the one who would betray him, said “Surely not I, Rabbi?”. It’s the beginning of “Getzemani” (Gethsemane) a beautiful and melodic “aria”. Jesus’ soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death and his voice soars in a prayer... “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done...”. Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus was arrested and put on trial. The short “Il processo” (The trial) features amazing operatic vocals... “Now, My Lord you’ll go on trial for the world’s sake / This way you will save us...”.

The next track “I testimoni” (The witnesses) is divided in two parts and features reminiscences of Latin rock “à la Carlos Santana”. Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. Finally two came forward and declared... “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days...”.


Il pianto” (The crying) is a short acoustic and melodic track, an “aria” full of mercy and admiration for the man who is going to die for the world’s sake... “You don’t speak my brother / Silently you are going to die for me... A mother is crying for her son who’s going to die...”.

Giuda” (Judas) is another short track. It’s more aggressive and features hard rock guitar riffs and swing passages... When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. His fate was to betray because of jealousy... “A tableau is hanging / It makes you understand...”.

Il re dei Giudei” (The king of Jews) is solemn and dramatic. Jesus was brought to trial in front of Pilate, the Roman procurator. The governor asked him, - Are you the king of the Jews? - Jesus replied - Yes, it is as you say. When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer... “Jesus was silent in front of Pilate / He said nothing but – I’m the king of Jews...”.


Il calvario” (Golgotha) opens with operatic vocals shouting “Barabbas!”. It was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, - Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?... The crowd chose Barabbas and Jesus was condemned! The roaring answer of the crowd then gives way to the organ and choir describing in music the Via Crucis... His cross carried by Simon the Cyrenian, Jesus is led to Golgotha for crucifixion. The executioners fix a sign to the cross: “This is Jesus: the King of the Jews”. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit...

The conclusive “aria”, “Il dono della vita” (The gift of life), is a reflection full of mercy and hope where the lead vocals and choir interact. “Like a stream which wants to wet the sand / You will be my brother... Your life is so great to be called never ending...”.

The re-release on CD also features a bonus track, “Mese di maggio” (May). It’s just a melodic pop song that contrasts with the rest of the album and adds nothing to this work...


You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

The band have recently completely re-recorded the whole album with new versions of the old pieces and some unreleased tracks...

More info:

domenica 13 aprile 2014

PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORIES

Camera Chiara were formed in Salerno in the second half of the first decade of this century. After a first demo in 2008, in 2013 they self-released an interesting eponymous début album with a line up featuring Francesco Lembo (keyboards), Danilo Lupi (bass), Vincenzo Manzi (guitar) and Antonio Pappacoda (drums). The name of the band was inspired by a book about photography by Roland Barthes, La chambre claire (translated in English as Camera Lucida) and the love of the band for the art of photography is also portrayed on the album cover that in some way gives you the right key to approach the musical content of this brilliant work.


Barthes considers photography as asymbolic, irreducible to the codes of language or culture, acting on the body as much as on the mind and he develops the twin concepts of studium and punctum: the first denoting the cultural, linguistic and political interpretation of a photograph, the latter denoting the wounding, personally touching detail which establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it. Well, on their website the band invite the listener to focus on the punctum of the “musical photographs” contained in the album. This is a completely instrumental work, all you have to do is close your eyes and let the music drive...

The short opener “Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake” sets a mysterious, dark atmosphere. Although there are no liner notes in the booklet, the title seems to refer to a famous picture shot in 1867 by Timothy H. O'Sullivan which portrays an almost lunar landscape on the Pyramid Lake, a place near Reno, Nevada while the music recalls Pink Floyd.

Timothy H. O'Sullivan: Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada

The following “Chiaroscuri” is a long, complex track marked by the constant contrast between dark and light atmospheres. It' another track that testifies the deep passion for photography of the band. In fact, chiaroscuro (Italian for light-dark) is a word that defines the artistic use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition or a picture. Here pulsing, tense bass lines contrast with light, soaring keyboards waves and electric guitar patterns while calm moments are followed by stormy passages. Every now and again Goblin or L'Ombra della Sera come to mind but the music does not sound derivative at all. A real treat!

Then comes “Maschere cadute” (Fallen masks), a nice short track full of positive energy that leads to the reflective “Nel tuo mondo” (In your world). Here the atmosphere is dreamy but never relaxed while shadows and lights seem to dance all around. A great track!

Camera Chiara 2013

Danzano le memorie” (Memories are dancing) is a short, romantic track with the piano in the forefront that almost melts into the following “In un gioco di specchi” (In a game of mirrors) where you can hear a haunting marching beat and experience some strange exotic flavours. Then the rhythm rises taking you to mysterious territories where your imagination can run free conjuring up psychedelic visions...

Come il bianco col nero” (As white with black) is another complex track where influences from the past and modern sounds are mixed in an original way with brilliant results. Then “Il nuovo e il vecchio giorno” (The new and the old day) concludes the album with a good dose of electricity and powerful blows of optimism.


This work is completely instrumental but very rich in ideas and there is no weak point. According to the band's website, among their influences you can find bands and artists with a different background such as Air, Balletto di Bronzo, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Biglietto per l'Inferno, Genesis, Goblin, King Crimson, Le Orme, Philip Glass, Pink Floyd, Rush, Soft Machine, Tool and Vangelis but I think that Camera Chiara have succeeded in mixing all these influences with great personality and excellent composition skills. This album is really worth listening to... Have a try!

You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

More info: