Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Garden Wall come from Cervignano del Friuli and began life in the late eighties on the initiative of composer and multi-instrumentalist Alessandro Serravalle. During the years the band went through many changes in personnel and style but has always maintained a coherent musical integrity. The present line up features, along with founder member Alessandro Seravalle (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Raffaello Indri (guitars), William Toson (bass), Ivan Moni Bidin (drums) and Gianpietro Seravalle (drum machines). “Assurdo” is their eighth full length work, the third of a kind of trilogy, and was released in 2011 on the independent label Lizard Records. In the studio the band was helped by some guest musicians with excellent results and the overall sound is challenging and extremely rich. You can find here influences ranging from Opeth to Area, from psychedelia to classical and jazz and many more.

Garden Wall 2009

Philosophy, spirituality and literature are an important source of inspiration too in this concept album about “absurdity” as Alessandro Serravalle explains in an interview with Murat Batmaz on the site seaoftranquillity.org: only by the means of something we can call “absurd” we could have a chance to embrace and, while embracing, trying to know, to taste some particle of “"truth”. If we try to catch, to grip the “real” with a somehow violent mental act of possession (which is exactly what the “technical world” tends to repeat over and over again) we’ll almost surely lose it... The instruments we have, to work with absurdity, are paradoxes, oxymoron, hyperboles and other “rhetorical embracing traps for truth atoms” as I like to call them. The music itself gushes from this position too... This leads to my idea of death of pure musical genres. Garden Wall’s music is built by mixing up as many musical influences as possible. It’s the result of both a strong alchemic interaction between different styles of music hurled into a strange particle accelerator to become something entirely new and of an “absurd” self-therapy process involving my inner ghosts. To be cured by one’s own music is indeed quite... absurd!. As for the lyrics, they do not try to tell a story, they are as touches of colour that are meant to suggest emotions and they swing from Italian to English, to German... In the same interview Alessandro Serravalle explains the reason of this artistic choice: every language has its own typical “sounds”, so it’s absurdly interesting to add, to inject this recipient inside the “strange accelerator particle” I was just talking about. There’s not only English and Italian, but also Friulano (my dialect), German, Latin, Greek and French. Of course I can’t actually speak most of those languages, but it’s very fascinating to use them for their sounds. Then there’s the problem of the translation. Sometimes the “soul” of an expression just can’t be translated into another language. Some expressions come to my mind in Italian, some in English, though I’m not an English native-speaker. I want to keep them in their language. Sometimes I make multiple translations of some key words (I worked that way in “Vacuum Fluctuation” for example) in order to reach the core of the key word in question via its different “sonic shelves” in different languages. Although in the liner notes you can find some quotations from maîtres à penser such as the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran, Guido Ceronetti or the writer Robert Musil do not worry, this is not a philosophy lesson so now relax, listen to the music and let it stir your imagination...

The opener “Iperbole” begins with a sudden burst of energy and “growling” vocals but after a minute the rage stops giving way to an oneiric, psychedelic mood. You can smell the colours and taste the wind while a musical kaleidoscope leads you to the gates of delirium... “You’re mine! You’re mine! Immortal symphonies... I’m close to the other side / So close to the other side / Iridescent membrane...”. The music flows away with many changes in rhythm and atmosphere, there’s room for a short organ solo, for a wild, fiery electric guitar ride and for many other surprises... The other tracks follow without interruption forming a long suite where moments of peace and reflection are broken by violent bursts of desperate rage... “You led my spirit out of the darkness / You fed it with light / Now the icy ranks of obscurity / Take possession of my soul once again...”.

“Butterfly Song” is the first leg of an odyssey accompanied by mental demons such as the crossed-eyed gnome who comes out from the sheets of another city in the frenzied “Trasfiguratofunky” and melts back in a sad rain. Then you have to cross the stream of notes and the vortex provoked by the mysterious power of absence evoked by the ethereal, hypnotic atmosphere of “Negative”. Next comes “Just Cannot Forget”, a short passage half way between free jazz and musique concrète leading to the narrative vocals of  “Flash (short–lived neorealism)”... “I love to listen to baroque music from four to six a.m. / Wet streets are deafly lit by the traffic lights...”. You have to walk through the mists of a troubled night following a path that leads to the lucid madness of “Clamores horrendos ad sidera tollit” where you can listen to a monologue that recalls the late Area’s vocalist Demetrio Stratos... “To be or not to be? / Neither one nor the other...”. In “Vacuum Fluctuation” echoes of Heisenberg’s philosophy bounce around you while you risk to lose the contact with reality following the charming notes of a violin coming from east...

“Re-awakening” starts by the dreamy notes of the flute and acoustic guitar, but the dream is still disturbed by a relentless flux of thoughts... You’re worn out, dried up! The experimental “Isteroctomia” concludes the album bringing an ephemeral and disquieting peace...   

Well, it’s very difficult to describe this excellent work where the absurd walls which  usually divide the music genres are completely smashed down. Maybe the beautiful, dark artwork by Giulio Casagrande depicts the atmosphere of this album better than my words...

You can read the complete interview with Alessandro Serravalle HERE

Garden Wall: Assurdo (2011). Other opinions:
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry:  If I had to use a single adjective to define Assurdo, I would call it unpredictable. While far too many albums and individual songs seem to endlessly reproduce the same structure, the 10 compositions featured on Garden Wall’s eight CD take the listener on a veritable rollercoaster ride that will leave all but the most open-minded rather bewildered, as well as drained. To say that Assurdo is not an easy listen would be an understatement: spanning a wide range of influences and moods, each song conceived as a mini-suite in many different movements, and providing a canvas for Alessandro Seravalle’s amazing vocal gymnastics, the album is an exercise in deconstruction rather than a showcase for cohesive compositional standards... In any case, adventurous listeners will find a lot to appreciate in Assurdo, one of the most intriguing albums released in 2011, and one that definitely deserves more exposure... (read the complete review HERE)
Guillermo Hernandez Urdapilleta: This is a great album by Garden Wall, highly recommendable but I warn you, don't judge at the first listen, you have to give it more chances before you truly enjoy it. Then you will not regret... (read the complete review HERE).

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