Tuesday, 23 April 2019

DYSTOPIAN DREAMS

The Piano Room is the brainchild of Roman keyboardist and composer Francesco Gazzara who wrote, arranged, performed and produced all the tracks of 2084, his fourth album so far. The album was released in 2019 on the independent label Irma Records and features a long instrumental suite divided into four parts (“Prologue 2084”, “2084 Part 1”, “2084 Part 2” and “Epilogue 2084”) that, according to the liner notes, was inspired by two novels: George Orwell’s 1984 and Boualem Sansal’s 2084: The End Of The World, both dealing with dystopian stories set in an imaginary future. 


The beautiful artwork by Giulio Fermetti tries to capture the atmosphere of the album and of its nightmarish sources of inspiration but as the music starts you’ll be probably drawn in a dreamy state, hypnotized by cyclic loops of notes and sounds rather than pushed into the dark abyss of rage and fear of a totalitarian world. In other words, here you can find more Genesis and Alan Parsons Project than Goblin and no metal at all. The love for Tony Banks is apparent and every now and again you can even hear echoes from the Firth of Fifth although in some way diluted by annoying drum machines and other sounds that seem be coming from the eighties...


Francesco Gazzara here plays a vast array of vintage keyboards such as Yamaha CP80 (piano), Hammond B3 (organ), Roland CR78 (drumbox), Korg MS20, Arp Odyssey, Arp 2600, Minimoog, Prophet 5, Polymoog, Moog Taurus (bass pedals), Mellotron D3000, Rhodes Mark 11 (electric piano), Kaway acoustic piano, PPG Wave, Yamaha DX7 or Arp Quadra and utilizes various software synthesizers such as U-He Diva, N1 Reaktor or LN Sylenth. Musically, always according to the liner notes, this work is also conceived as a tribute to Anthony Phillips’ album 1984 and its  electronic experiments and if you like Phillips’ album I’m sure you’ll like this one as well! The pace is calm and relaxed despite the subject matter but while some passages might sound a bit tedious due to the drum machines and the lack of a real, pulsing rhythm section, the songwriting is excellent and it can be wholly appreciated by listening to the three bonus tracks containing the piano solo versions of three parts of the suite...


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Sunday, 16 December 2018

THE VOID AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Atti Pubblici in Luogo Osceno came to life in 2014 in Bagheria, a little town in the province of Palermo, Sicily, on the initiative of Gioacchino D’Amico and Sergio Giuliana. After some personnel changes and a good live activity on the local scene where they played original stuff and some covers of bands such as Queen and Pink Floyd, in 2018 the band self-released an interesting debut album entitled In fondo vedo il nulla assoluto (At the bottom I see the absolute void) with a line up featuring Antonio Tralongo (vocals), Alessandro Siragusa (keyboards, vocals), Gioacchino D'Amico (guitar, vocals), Gabriele Lo Iacono (bass) and Giuseppe D'Amico (drums). In my opinion the hard work of the band to refine their original compositions paid off and the result is a nice mix of vintage sounds, hard rock and melody that is absolutely worth listening to. Although the sound quality might not be perfect it is better than that of many albums recorded in the seventies and the capacity to convey emotions of the musicians is apparent.


The opener “La boutique degli inermi” (The shop of the helpless people) is an introspective track about regret and lost chances. There’s a vein of melancholy in the surreal, dreamy atmosphere as music and words conjure up images of Christmas lights and old books while a pendulum clock beats the time swinging between boredom and agony. A bunch of doubts are your only company as you enter an old shop at the end of the road where a gipsy shows you all the time you lost looking through the window, in search for answers you never found… Standing still, looking at the bricks in the wall we are all the same, dummies and clones adrift on the ocean. At every step you can hear the sound of creaking wood follow the weightless, crumbling body of a lost fool dancing on the shores of Ys... 


The following “Salò” starts with a funky incipit, then in turns the music reminds me of Max Gazzè, Il Balletto di Bronzo and Deep Purple… It’s a sarcastic piece against consumerism and the false ethical values of an obscene world where it doesn’t matter if you steal or commit a crime provided that you do it with class. The title refers to Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom, a 1975 Italian-French horror art film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini that is a loose adaptation of the novel The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade reset during WWII. The film explores the themes of political corruption, murder, abuse of power, sadism, perversion, sexuality and fascism and here the band express all their disdain for the lack of moral values in our society...


The bitter-sweet “Quando è già finito” (When it’s already over) is an impressionist piece drenched in melody and nostalgia where music and words have the colours of a Claude Monet’s tableau. It tells of the end of a romance... A girl has left Sicily and his sweetheart for the city of Bologna and the fogs of the Padan Plain...

Atti Pubblici in Luogo Osceno 2018

The long, complex “Venivo da sinistra” (I was coming from the left) ends the album blending hard rock, jazz rock and dreamy melodic passages. The caustic lyrics, interpreted with a strong theatrical approach, tell of defeatism and indifference in of a world on the wane, of crazy dreams melting at dawn and of the loneliness and pain of a man going in the wrong direction who feels lost in a world he can’t accept...

On the whole, a very promising debut work!

You can listen to the complete album HERE

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Monday, 3 December 2018

SOLE SURVIVOR

Panda Fight Club come from Meda, a town located in an area called Brianza, not far from Milan. The band came to life in 2009 and immediately started to work on a concept album telling the story of the last panda, an animal of rare beauty condemned to extinction by the ruthless laws of natural selection, a bit like progressive rock. The musical palette of Panda Fight Club mainly draw on seventies influences and bands such as Premiata Forneria Marconi, Biglietto per l’Inferno or De De Lind, but they're not stuck in the past and you can hear in their sound also elements of metal and hard rock mixed with a good deal of irony and freshness. The current line up features Christian Colombo (drums), Dario Errigo (keyboards, Moog), Federico Nespoli (guitar), Lorenzo Nespoli (bass) and Simone Pagani (vocals). Their debut album, entitled Ultimo (The last one), was digitally self-released in 2015 while the physical copy on CD followed in 2016. In my opinion it's an amazing work and it's really worth listening to. 


The beautiful instrumental opener “Heihe 2058 (Overture)” sets the atmosphere and takes us in the dreamy world portrayed by the beautiful art cover painted by keyboardist Dario Errigo. There’s an excellent interaction between guitar and keyboards perfectly backed by a brilliant rhythm section… Let’s go! China, year 2058. In a forest on the mountains still lives a Panda, the last one… 

With a sudden change of scenery “Fame senza fine” (Endless hunger) takes us in the middle of a banquet. The theatrical, almost operatic vocals play the role of the master of the house: a powerful, unscrupulous, voracious tycoon whose richness and haughtiness seem to have no limit. His greediness and gluttony are enormous, Pantagruel or Gargantua if compared with him were just picky people without appetite, he can have everything but he wants more, something particularly rare and precious... For his next banquet, the main course has to be the last panda on Earth! 

Back to our hero! “Ultimo” (The last one) begins by an electric guitar arpeggio, then soaring vocals come in to play the role of the solitary panda wandering in a forest with no borders. The atmosphere is tense and melancholic, the mood of the protagonist is blue while the forest is compared to a cage without bars nor locks. Desperate, downhearted, sole survivor of a species on the brink of extinction... Ultimo is the name they gave to him, a name that sounds as a sentence to death.


The sarcastic “Animalisti” (Animal activists) marks another change of scenery and introduce us to another kind of danger that threatens the poor animal. The music here every now and again recalls Area and Magma while the frenzied vocals play the role of some intransigent, crazy animal activists speaking up for animals rights. They want to capture Ultimo to compel him in some way to breed and extract from him some blood and DNA samples to clone him and preserve in this way his species... 

The aggressive “Caccia nuova” (New Hunt) describes another threat for the panda, a merciless hunter. Here the vocals play the role of the human predator and try to express the feelings of the hunting man and the reasons that push him set off on and adventurous journey just for the pleasure of killing his prey. The predator comes to life where the prey dies, a new hunting trip begins...

Panda Fight Club 2016

Back to our panda! “Braccato” (Chased) is a frenzied piece that describes the last moments of freedom of Ultimo and his breathtaking efforts to run away and escape from all the people who want to capture him. Eventually, who is the winner? We don’t know. The track ends by the sound of a shot...

The psychedelic, almost mystical “Sogno alla chetamina” (Ketamine dream) tell us that the gun used to shoot at the panda was loaded with a powerful narcotic. In fact, ketamine is a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anaesthesia that provokes a trance-like state while providing pain relief, sedation, and memory loss. Now the poor animal is dreaming, and in his dream he changes into a blue mammoth with the wheels, a bus, a dodo, he’s falling down in a deep abyss... You can hear also some voices speaking around him, speaking to him. There are some doctors who try to wake him up...

The surreal “Il risveglio” (Awakening) ends the album with a coup de théâtre. Slowly the silence is broken by the rain, the fog clears, the protagonist emerges from his state of unconsciousness and… Surprise! The panda is not a panda but a man who can see the light of a new, brighter day. He’s not alone any more but just a man among other men. Anyway the relief last a while since he still feels as a sole survivor in his heart... 

On the whole, a very good album with a curious storyline!


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