Thursday, 29 September 2011

LIVING IN THE PAST?

ARCHITRAVE INDIPENDENTE is an Italian prog band from Rutigliano, a town in the province of Bari also known as “la città dell’uva” (the city of the grape) because of the widespread vineyards that you can find in the sourroundings. The band was formed in 2005 by five young, skilled musicians in love with vintage sounds and analog recording techniques.

Architrave Indipendente

The line up features Oscar Larizza (electric bass, lute, classical and acoustic guitars, flute, synthesizers, organ, glockenspiel), Alessandro Mezzacane (violoncello), Emanuele Palumbo (piano, flute, organ, synthesizer, harmonium), Piero Palumbo (drums, percussion, xilomarimba) and Stefano Renna (acoustic and electric guitars).

 In 2009 they released an excellent debut album, “Azetium a 8 piste”, self produced, distributed and published only on vinyl (but if you have not a turntable don’t worry, you can ask them a digital copy on CD-R or download it with their permission). The album was proudly recorded using only analog techniques but despite the vintage sounds it is by no means a nostalgic operation or a “regressive work”. These musicians are not living in the past, on the contrary, their overall sound is fresh and their music and lyrics rich in ideas. The result of their recording sessions is an interesting concept album dealing with ecological issues. The art cover, the extended liner notes and the pictures in the inner fold contribute to explain the subject matter...


The opener “La spinta” (The thrust) starts softly, you can hear in the background the wind blowing and singing birds. Then the rhythm rises and from a strummed guitar pattern the notes of a violin soar embroidering evocative melodies. This piece is about the need to go back to your roots to find your own identity because the people who don’t know what happened in the past can’t grow up. The lyrics and music depict a small town where people don’t care about anything but money... Anyway there’s also a man strolling around who does not conform, who has travelled abroad and raises doubts suggesting that changing is possible. These doubts push you to dig in the history of the town... “There are some who believe and others who don’t...”.

Album cover

The first track leads to “Emplecton”, a long suite in three parts that in some way tries to describe the effects of the lack of a collective identity. The first part, the instrumental “Incipit, regressione e cerimoniale”, features a delicate acoustic guitar arpeggio, soothing keyboard waves and colourful flute passages. It sets a dreamy, bucolic atmosphere... On the second part, “Vassallo ignorante”, the dream becomes uneasy, the rhythm rises and you can imagine some ghosts dancing on the notes of a fiery tarantella just before a sudden stop and a nocturnal piano passage... The title of this suite refers to a building technique developed by the ancient Greek architects, who used it to build the walls of their cities. Now of the ancient walls of the town there’s nothing left but some scattered ruins. The vestiges of an old civilization had to give way to new vineyards and intensive crops and there’s no respect for the ancestors and their way of life anymore, threatening clouds of pesticides appear on the horizon and people don’t realize that ambition and greed can kill... “The soil under your feet pleads for mercy / It can’t give you more fruits / Fossilized county, wake up!... In your grapes the environment is drowning and you are still afloat, ignorant vassal!”. The third part of the suite, “Scherzo (di cattivo gusto) e ripresa” is a tasteful, complex instrumental coda, rich in ideas and featuring many changes in mood and atmosphere where the music seems to evoke the clash between the ghosts from the past and the dangers of modern life. It closes the first side of the album and you have to turn your vinyl now...



Side B opens with another complex suite in three parts, the excellent “Azezio”. The title refers to the ancient name of Rutigliano, the hometown of the band. The first part, “Calura d’agosto”, evokes a hot summer day in August and a beautiful bucolic landscape that invites you to dream and to think about the glorious past of this land...

Slowly in your mind the old town with its customs comes to life again in antithesis with the modern hectic reality... “From the countryside I can hear a voice singing / The prosperous red soil tells stories of ancient flourishing civilizations...”. The second part, “Sagra dell’uva”, is just an instrumental acoustic bridge where you can hear the voices of some people arguing in the background while an acoustic guitar carelessly weaves its arpeggios, indifferent to what is going on all around. Then comes the darker third part, “Ossa puto”, where the evocative music invites you to keep on dreaming all day long until the night falls...

Palying on the ancient ruins of Azetium wall

The title of the last track “Gli altarini di San Rocco” (The little altars of Saint Rocco) refers to an old tradition of Rutigliano. On August 16, the inhabitants use to set some little altars in honour to Saint Rocco and the band sarcastically compares the cult of the saint with the reckless exploitation of the soil and with the cult that now some people tribute to their brand-new tractors that they park “even in their living-rooms”. This piece features many changes in rhythm and mood and concludes a very good, committed album full of musical inventions and surprises...

Despite some ingenuities, on the whole I think that this work could be an excellent addition to your prog collection!

Architrave Indipendente: Azetium a 8 piste (2009). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: They have succeeded in the mission of delivering a stellar RPI gem as good as the classics of the 70s. Oscar has been studying the 70s RPI scene since he was 12 years old. His influences include De De Lind, Quella Vecchia Locanda, Paese dei Balocchi, Battiato, Osanna, Cervello, Pholas Dactylus, and many others. He shares my own conclusion that the bands least influenced by the English scene were the most interesting ones. It is a common misconception that the Italian scene was just an imitation of the English scene. While some bands are guilty as charged, the great Italian groups may have loved the English scene but clearly created their own sounds. When I asked Oscar to describe Architrave Indipendente’s sound, rather than trying to worry about genre labels, he just said “genuine” and I can safely say they are on the right track. Architrave Indipendente’s self-released work "Azetium a Otto Piste" is a warm and gentle feast of music that just knocked me out... (read the complete review HERE). 
Linus Wikström: What I like most about the whole package is still none of these parts in isolation; it’s the fact that despite the leaps and bounds between some of the different parts, it works so well together. There’s always a smart, unexpected degradation or twist that manages to segue into what’s to come. Sometimes quirky, but never in a way that distracts from the impressionistic and lush exuberance of the story-telling. As such, it’s both an adventurous and mature effort... (read the complete review HERE). 
Chris "Seventhsojourn":  This is some album to be just one album and it'll take many more listens for me to get my head fully around it. Produced in the old fashioned way, it's an album that endeavours to invoke the ghosts of the seventies RPI greats while scoffing at the more generic examples of the species. It's an important album, with an important message, that shouldn't be hidden away or reserved for only a small handful of listeners... (read the complete review HERE). 
Torodd Fuglesteg: The overall quality is very good throughout. The vocals are great, the band know how to play their instruments and the sound is very good (even on my turntable). There is no killer tracks here though and I get a bit confused about this two faced record with the two different styles. This is a very promising, good album though. It is well worth checking out... (read the complete review HERE)


More info about the band: