domenica 31 agosto 2014

SAILING ACROSS THE DESERT

Il Quarto Vuoto began life in Mogliano Veneto, a little town in the province of Treviso, in 2010. The name of the band means Empty Quarter and refers to the largest sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. According to the band, the name was chosen because they say that a man who walks through that desert has always to face his own limits and the band's music and lyrics have exactly the goal of creating a space where the listener can be free to set off on a personal journey in search for his personal limits. In 2014 Quarto Vuoto self-released an excellent eponymous debut album with a line up featuring Edoardo Ceron (bass), Nicola D'Amico (drums), Federico Lorenzon (vocals, violin), Mattia Scomparin (keyboards, piano) and Luca Volonnino (guitar). The overall sound is a wonderful mix of different influences ranging from classical music to hard rock, with a very personal touch and many original ideas. Well, in my opinion the beautiful art work by Silvia Volonnino could help to explain what the music and lyrics are about...

album cover

The opener “Dimmi solo se è così” (Just tell me if it's so) is the shortest track on the album and alternates powerful guitar riffs and calmer passages with soaring melodic lines. The music and lyrics evoke a sudden change in your life and you risk to get drowned into a sea of dreams while the naked truth of reality starts wildly dancing around you. You're stranded but it's too late to change the course of your fate, you can't relive the past and Time takes you away... “I would like to listen again / To the life running in me / And to start over again to carve my name / Into the heart of this reality...”.


Next comes the beautiful “Zattera della Medusa” (The Raft of the Medusa), a complex piece divided into two parts that evokes the colours and the emotions of the 19th-century painting of the same name by Théodore Géricault. The painting was inspired by the wreck of a French frigate off the coast of Senegal in 1816 and illustrates the vain hope of rescue, a view of human life abandoned to its fate. The first part of this long track, “Il giorno della notte” (The day of the night) is completely instrumental, it begins softly, the atmosphere is dark and you can feel rise a sense of impending tragedy. The second part, “Il grido di una vita” (The scream of a life), begins after the shipwreck and the music and lyrics depict the gloomy destiny of the survivors. Everything has changed, in the twilight the certainties of the castways crumble while they seem to sail across the Styx, towards the gates of Hell, in a crescendo of regrets and madness... A great track!

Quarto Vuoto on stage

The album ends with the charming epic “Rub' al-Khali” (Empty Quarter), a kind of manifesto of the talent of this excellent band. The music features an outstanding brew of exoticism and classical flavour while the poetical lyrics lead you through hidden, obscure paths towards a new sunrise to take your dreams back, overcoming fears, burning ties and useless memories... “Now you know who you are / Now you know what you want / Source of happiness, light that sets you free / From your black, murky past / Now you'll be able to live...”.

On the whole, this is a magnificent album even if a bit short. If you like modern Italian progressive rock that’s based on classic prog but it's not stuck in the past, you really have to check this band out.

Quarto Vuoto: Quarto Vuoto (2014). Other opinions:
Todd Dudley: Overall, this is a very engaging album, which not only whets the appetite for what's to come from the band, but it's a very satisfying treat in and of itself... (read the complete review HERE
Michael "Aussie-Byrd-Brother": For now, this self-titled work suggests a superb new band to keep an eye on and launches them in a very fine manner. If they're already this good, imagine what they may deliver with a full-length proper album?... (read the complete review HERE)


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giovedì 28 agosto 2014

KILLING TIME

Tacita Intesa come from the Casentino Valley, in the province of Arezzo, and are based in the little town of Subbiano. The band began life in 2012 with a line up featuring Alessandro Granelli (guitar, vocals), Filippo Colongo (guitar), Daniele Stocchi (keyboards), Thomas Crocini (bass) and Pasquale Balzano (drums). They were influenced by seventies prog and hard rock but managed to add a very personal touch to their original compositions. In 2014 they self-released an interesting eponymous debut album that sounds fresh and that is really worth listening to. The beautiful art work by keyboardist Daniele Stocchi in some way depicts the content of the music and lyrics, focused on the relationship between nature and science, progress and environment...


The excellent opener “Ciutikutown” is a complex track divided into three parts featuring a space rock atmosphere that perfectly fits the lyrics. The first one, Robotomia, depicts in music and words a robot picking up a beautiful, magical rose: it's the flower of life! In this way the robot breaks free from the chains of science. The second part, Epifania, describes the mystical rose breathing a new energy into the robot, its vibrations seem almost talking to him revealing the mystery of life and dissolving the shadows of the darkest arcane. The last part, Metamorfia, is a bluesy instrumental section that describes the transformation of the robot into a human being.

Tacita Intesa on stage

Daigo” is a beautiful, short instrumental track with a melancholic atmosphere. Try to imagine a ship sailing across the Pacific Ocean, there are magnificent, breathtaking landscapes in the background and an impending sense of tragedy in the air... In fact, along with the following “Valzer della Morte” (Death's Waltz), this piece was inspired by the story of the Daigo Fukuryū Maru, a Japanese tuna fishing boat which was exposed to and contaminated by nuclear fallout from the United States' Castle Bravo thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll, on March 1, 1954. The music and lyrics of “Valzer della Morte” depict in a poetical way that disaster conjuring up invisible lights, a sudden explosion and a cruel, evil flower stretching out its black petals, a tree of light and the dark fate looming over the twenty-three men of the crew, victims of the merciless bomb. Two great tracks!


Next comes “Portmanteau”, a short, aggressive track with a strong theatrical approach and a cabaret atmosphere featuring strange, cryptic lyrics dealing with the necessity of hiding yourself behind a mask of nonsense and the will to conform the chaos. It leads to the dreamy “Corona” (Crown) that deals with the harmony between Heaven and Earth. Here the lyrics describe a glance towards the sky to admire a beautiful crown of light and clouds, a gift coming from a lost paradise where ancient gods used to celebrate the poets and look at men with indulgence.

Terzo rigo quarta parola” (Third line fourth word) is another excellent track where the borders between past and present are blurred and time stands still. In a new world you can fly high like a golden angel drawn by a galactic vortex of life that fades into the deep... “I've killed the god of Time / Tired of trembling...”.


The surreal “Periodo refrattario” (Refractory period) concludes this interesting work. It's an instrumental piece divided into six parts that tries to describe a world dominated by media and consumerism where people seem to have lost the sense of critical thought. Try to imagine a strange factory producing heads in series, there are queues in series... Assembly and welding follow, just before the final packaging and shipping!

On the whole, I think that this is a very good album from a very promising band. You can listen to the complete album and download it for free, so have a try and if you like it ask the band for the physical copy!

Click HERE

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domenica 24 agosto 2014

OVER THE WALL

Proteo were formed in Trieste in 1996 by Marco Paulica (rhythm guitars, vocals), Matteo Copetti (lead guitar, sax), Alessandro Surian (bass) and Fabio Gorza (drums, percussion) and along the years the line up has always remained the same. The name of the band refers to a small animal called olm or proteus (proteus anguinus) that lives in the caves of the Karst plateau and that is best known for its adaptations to a life of complete darkness in its underground habitat. In some way it reflects the style of the band, a curious mix of pop rock and progressive rock influences. 


After some demos and a good live activity on the local scene, in 2009 Proteo released a debut album on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records, Under A Red Polar Light, featuring eight well crafted original tracks where dreamy melodies and bright touches of musical colours unfurl avoiding banality. Although the overall sound every now and again draws on eighties atmospheres and could recall bands such as The Police, U2 or Talk Talk, the band successfully managed to blend these influences with a prog attitude and personal touch. 
 


The opener “Colors To Give” is a kaleidoscope of images and emotions that flashes out eighties atmospheres and walks on the moon while the following “Eternity” takes you up and down through time and space, between heart and mind, where the streets have no name and eternity fades away dancing on Latin rock rhythms. Then comes the dreamy “Australia”, that reminds me slightly of Men At Work or Crowded House and conjures up images from the Lucky Country. The title of the following “Tales From The Ocean” could recall Yes but here the tales from the ocean are not topographic at all and the waves move gently in a controlled flow while the music and lyrics evoke nights on a beach blessed by the moonlight.


Van Gogh” is another dreamy track that tries to take you a million miles away, under deep blue skies. As you can guess, it was inspired by the work of the famous post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh and leads to the spacey “Robota”, featuring short lyrics inspired by the work of Isaac Asimov. Then it's the turn of “I Wish I Could Fly”, a piece full of positive energy. The last track “Echoes Mankind (Part I)” is more complex and describes in music and words silent weapons in a time where war and peace seemed to play to hide and seek. Well, all in all this is a good album if you like AOR but the progressive influences here are mild and prog fans risk to be a bit disappointed...


Proteo's second album, “Republikflucht! …Facing East” was released in 2013 on Ma.Ra.Cash Records and in my opinion is more refined and mature if compared with its predecessor. Here the song-writing is bolder and the music, yet still rooted in eighties pop rock forms, perfectly fits the concept and helps to take you back in time. In fact, according to an interview with the band, this is a concept album inspired by books such as Anna Funder's C'era una volta la Ddr or Ryszard Kapuscinsky's Imperium, it's a reflection about the cold war and a way to look over the ruins of the Berlin Wall, facing East. A fatherland with a hand of fire and another hand of snow that hurts your heart when you try to embrace it, as sings Wolf Biermann in one of his best lieder. Well, here the music is a far cry from Wolf Biermann's but it successfully contributes to set the right atmosphere while the lyrics do not try to tell a story but just draw evocative images focusing on the hopes and feelings of the common people rather than on politics.


The opener “Echoes Mankind (Part II)” is a sequel of the last track on Proteo's debut album and depicts military plants and barbed wire along the border, a barrack-like homeland where people are kept as prisoners without consciousness, where bureaucracy rules but where there's still room for hope and where in spite of everything flowers can still break the ice. Next comes the long, complex “Berlin”, a surreal musical painting of a city that could resemble to a museum of modern art and where the free sky is blotted out by disquieting grey clouds. Then the dreamy “Eastern Fields” follows drawing images of a farmland on the edge of time where you risk to get lost in your thoughts, facing east, far away from home...


The lively “Funny Girls Playing Double Dutch” is the shortest track on the album and describes some innocent children merrily playing in a courtyard, unconscious of their destiny and scrutinized by men wearing uniforms. “Four-leaf Clover” is another long track dealing with feelings such as faith, hope and love under the iron curtain. “Republikflucht” concludes the album with a come back from this strange trip through time and space leading to mysterious and shadowy places, over fake theories and disused liturgies, underneath lost memories and black and white pictures.

All in all this is a very good album. Through the distillation of a myriad of influences Proteo have achieved a singular sound and if you like modern progressive rock with a melodic approach, you really have to check this album out.