Thursday, 29 September 2011

A CHALLENGING GAME

Nichelodeon come from Milan and define themselves as a “chemical laboratory engaged in performing audio-visual crafts”. Indeed, this project is mainly the brainchild of Claudio Milano, vocalist and composer who started to work on it in 1997. In 2007 he gathered around him a first line up for some live performances and in 2008 a first self-produced live album was released, “Cinemanemico”. In June 2009 the line up changed and now features Claudio Milano (vocals), Francesco Chiapperini (sax, clarinet, flute), Andrea Illuminati (piano, melodica, bombarda), Andrea Murada (percussion, didgeridoo, noise effects, flute, vocals), Max Pierini (electric counterbass, ocarina) Luca Pissavini (viola, synth, toys, field recordings, duduk, theremin) and Lorenzo Sempio (guitars, synth).  

Nichelodeon 2010

In September 2010 the first Nicheodeon’s studio album. “Il gioco del silenzio” (The game of silence), was released on the independent label Lizard Records. It features many guest musicians and the overall sound is extremely rich and colourful. The sources of inspiration range from John Cage to opera, from Kurt Weil and Bertold Brecht to jazz-rock and psychedelia. Well, experimental music is not everyone’s cup of tea but in this case the result is a well balanced concoction of styles that gives strength to the poetical content of the lyrics while Claudio Milano's particular vocal style and his theatrical approach help to convey emotions.

The opener “Fame” (Hunger) features a troubled mood and an uneasy atmosphere. The music is obsessive, discomfort seems leading to madness, then the tension melts in a desperate invocation... “Light that knows the secret of my name, just tell me you exist, that life is too short to repress myself / Light that shines at the recall of my name, let me discover where you are, for I feel like sleeping / Let this hunger be quenched...”.


 “Fiaba” (Fable) is one of my favourite pieces on this album. It’s a kind of surreal and poetical description of a bombardment... “Lying in the sun like lizards, we suddenly were ballerinas dancing between the seeds that thundered / With the tails, souls never grew again / With a shout:- War! / The sun darkened us...”. The mood is almost dreamy and vocals soar like a prayer... “Free me from the hate inside of me... Free me from the hate that exists...”. 

“Claustrofilia” (Claustrophilia) is agoraphobic and tense. Sometimes it is difficult to keep up with the frenzy rhythm of a busy life and the desire to find an artificial shelter to shut out trouble is strong... “Like many dolls at the window on a plane that sooner or later will fall / Freer than ever, freer than ever, freer than ever, freer...”.  

“Malamore e la Luna” (Evilove and the moon) is melancholic and haunting. A romantic tango turns to nightmare depicting an ill and evil love... “Rare, thieving and greedy for life recklessness, our eyes, black holes looking through each other / What connects them is the alien frame that scares and bares and all the rest is waiting, deceit and cannibalism... Proud pantomimes of insane superstructures, we defend a mosaic of lies that we no longer distinguish from our skin / Behind our face only a blind emptiness is left to be kept / Ashen moon, shine! / Without hiding your veil / Let me be the rain to wash you and don’t hold your breath / Drop of glass, reflect now each of your longings for light / No longer scared of knowing how to shatter into a thousand drops of wrath...”. A great track! 


 “Amanti in guerra” (Lovers at war) is a touching reflection about love and hate. Two lovers try to find a shelter while confetti of stone are pouring down and in a nocturnal background you can hear a soaring dirge... “Mute silences have warmed hate as a child / But the shooter’s children, neither you nor I have ever mourned / Ah Israel! Ah, Israel! / Tomorrow we’ll find  the courage to tell ourselves:- I don’t know what I want, who am I, who are you? / Fear for a stroke of gunpowder is too cheap / No, it’s not worth your I love you / Will we ever be able to surrender and fly through the wrinkles that life is giving us?...”.

“Ombre cinesi” (Chinese shadows) is a surreal experimental track. It could remind of some Area’s experiments but in my opinion the result is not completely convincing... “I’ve dug galleries in long unfocused dreams between warm sheets of guilt at my wakening...”.

 “Apnea” (Apnea) is another experimental track featuring an uneasy atmosphere and breathless passages... “Never suggesting answers, not asking questions, it’s like building yourself a prison / Not acknowledging confines and limits is not the way out... You have to be in peace with yourself to learn how to love...”.


 “Il giardino degli altri” (Other people’s garden) starts like a mantra. It’s a kind of psychoanalytic journey which takes you back into childhood where you can listen to some nursery rhymes veined of a psychedelic, dark mood... “I put my dreams in a well / Then when evening comes secretly I look down on them from above and I feel fear / Fear of seeing them in the dark, drowning slowly / They are so deep, they are so far away...”.  

“La corsa dei trattori” (The race of the tractors) is a short instrumental credited as a ghost track that leads to “Se” (If), an experimental piece featuring lyrics taken from a famous poem by Cecco Angiolieri (1260-1312). Well, in my opinion the experiment was not successful and I think that this is the weakest track on this album.

“Lana di vetro” (Glass wool) is definitely better. It features folksy passages and pungent reflections about life and education... “How can we surrender to the recklessness of a child and invent ourselves mothers not to acknowledge our failures / If those who never die... Kill?”.


The last track “Ciò che rimane” (What’s left behind) is long and complex. It begins with a delicate piano solo, then the music takes different directions... “Let your reality explode, then swim in the depths of what’s left behind / Let the truth explode, then rush to drink what’s left behind...”. A beautiful and unconventional epic piece...

On the whole a few weak moments don’t waste this interesting and challenging work that lasts about 78 minutes. Along with the CD comes also a DVD including the live version of some tracks from the album and a “cine-concerto” featuring music inspired by the last episode of “Twin Peaks”. Well, I’m sure this will be an excellent addition to your prog collection...

You can listen in streaming to the complete album. Click HERE


Nichelodeon: Il gioco del silenzio (2010). Other opinions:
Olav Martin Bjørnsen: A defining part of their approach seems to be to explore the borderlands between melody and dissonance, with a more or less defined melodic motif used as a red thread while counterpointed by dissonant sounds and textures, or by using the latter as the compositional backbone and adding in fragmented melodic motifs and sounds. Elongated melodic themes broken apart by gradually evolving dissonant segments and insertions of noisescapes and cacophonous excursions with more than a few nods in the direction of free form jazz are other distinct traits to this production... The end result is somewhat of a varied affair. Nichelodeon does a fine balancing act between the melodic and the dissonant, between the pleasant and the unpleasant. At best the end results are stunning... (read the complete review HERE).
César Inca Mendoza Loyola: What a lovely avant-prog album this is, so full of richly developed textures and adventurous orchestrations: this one might as well be regarded as a cornerstone of Italy's experimental musical scene in the years to come. Influences from (or coincidences with) Opus Avantra, Art Bears, Tortoise and Area can be easily traced by the informed listener, but once and for all it is only fair to consider Nichelodeon as a voice of its own in the realms of contemporary avant-garde progressive music... (read the complete review HERE).
Assaf Vestin: If there ever was an album that needs full attention and headphone listening, this is it. Miss a beat (or a bit) and you can totally lose it and not be able to reconnect. This will not be an easy album to absorb and open up to, but a rewarding one, once you do... (read the complete review HERE).

Read the interview with Claudio Milano at Progarchives. Click HERE


More info: