Monday, 26 September 2011

LOMBARDIA (part 3)

And now let’s visit the other cities of Lombardia. Nearby Milan there’s MONZA, in the Brianza area, best known for hosting every year the Formula 1 Grand Prix. In the seventies E.A.Poe (Facebook) came from here while now it’s the time of Zita Ensemble (MySpace), an instrumental project that blends progressive, jazz and psychedelic influences, of the heavier Dea (Facebook) and of the “Celtic rage” of the folk metal Furor Gallico (Facebook). The nearby town of Meda is home to Forza Elettro Motrice (F.E.M.) (Facebook), a promising emerging band that in 2014 released an interesting full length debut album entitled Sulla bolla di sapone inspired by a science-fiction story by German writer Kurd Lasswitz (1848 – 1910).



About 55 km North-West from Milan lies VARESE, which in the seventies gave us Cincinnato and Hunka Munka. In Varese today we can listen to Court (Official Website), a band formed in 1990 by five skilled young musicians. In 2007 they won the Los Angeles Music Award as the best Alternative Artist with their third album Frost Of Watermelon, released ten years after Court’s previous work. Their “recipe” is tasty and well balanced, the band is not stuck in the past and you can find in this work not only echoes of Genesis and Pink Floyd but also some particular, “grungy” passages.




Other interesting bands from the province of Varese are Ske (MySpace), a side project of Yugen keyboardist Paolo “Ske” Botta” who in 2011 released an album titled 1000 autunni, then Atto IV (ReverbNation), Ego (MySpace), Delta (Official Website), Sirena (MySpace) and a hard-psychedelic band called Emmablu (MySpace). Almost half way between Milan and Varese there’s a little town called Cuggiono, birthplace of the Italian minstrel Angelo Branduardi (Official Website).




About 45 km north of Milan lies COMO, on the western arm of Lake Como. From here there comes the “prog chamber music” of Gatto Marte (Official Website), the symphonic prog of Mogador (Reverbnation) and Sarastro Blake (Facebook), interesting bands with many seventies influences, the folk-prog Trewa (Reverbnation) and the heavier Mysteria Noctis (Facebook). Como is not far from the border between Italy and Switzerland, so I think it’s worth taking the chance to cross the border and go up to LUGANO to find a “non Italian Italianprog band”, Aliperdute. It’s a pity that this band is not active at the moment, but luckily their music is still available in free legal download from the site cantine.org so take your time, relax for awhile, and listen (click here) .




On the other arm of Lake Como lies LECCO, the city where a famous novel by the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni, I promessi sposi, is set. In the seventies Lecco gave us the “Christian prog” band Messaggio ‘73 and Biglietto per l’Inferno (Official Website). Biglietto per l’Inferno started their activity in 1972 and, until they split up at the end of 1975, they were a terrific band on stage. In 2007 on the initiative of original members Giuseppe “Pilly” Cossa (piano, accordion) and Mauro Gnecchi (drums, percussion) a new project called Biglietto per l’Inferno.folk was formed for some live performances featuring the old repertoire of the band and in 2009 a new album was released on the independent label BTF featuring new arrangements of the historic pieces, Tra l’assurdo e la ragione.


The original vocalist Claudio Canali retired from ordinary life and today he’s a monk of the Order of Saint Benedict, so the lead vocals are now provided by a female singer, Mariolina Sala. Anyway the old singer gave his blessing to the new project and “Fra’” Claudio appears as a special guest on two tracks of the album. Another original member of the band, Giuseppe “Baffo” Banfi, features as producer and helped the band in studio. I have to say that the new project is excellent, the new arrangements feature folk influences but respect the spirit of the old compositions and the result is a well crafted, balanced mix of fresh sounds and vintage suggestions. As in the past, the concerts are still the band’s pillar of strength and their performances attract many people, so old and young enthusiastic fans are pushing the band to go on. In fact, the new project is not a boring unplugged version of the old band but a lively act still able to stir emotions.


By the way, former bassist of Biglietto per l’Inferno, Fausto Branchini, takes no part in the new project but he has not given up music and is working on a rock opera under the name Fausto Branchini - Biglietto per l’Inferno. Other contemporary prog bands from Lecco, with a heavier sound influenced by metal, are Evil Wings (MySpace) whose vocalist and guitarist features also in the new line-up of Il Biglietto per l’Inferno.folk, Willow (Facebook), Leader Braun (MySpace), Drivhell (MySpace) and Dropshard (Official Website).