Thursday, 26 April 2012

WINTER TALES

Arpia’s sophomore album, “Terramare”, was released in 2006, more than ten years after the interesting debut work “Liberazione”, but in my opinion it’s not at the same level of its predecessor. The line up still features Leonardo Bonetti (bass, synthesizers, vocals), Fabio Brait (guitar) and Aldo Orazi (drums) and the overall sound is enriched by two guests: Paola Feraiorni (vocals) and Tonino De’ Sisinno (percussion). According to the band, there’s a common source of inspiration for all the songs: the recurrent idea of Earth and Sea, “elements of physical force and sexuality, poles of a real and recognizable continuity, horizontal and pertaining both to a game of commonly accepted contrasts...”. Although there’s a common thread, “Terramare” is an heterogeneous album where you can find excellent tracks and really weak ones. Themusic is more straightforward than in the past and features some powerful guitar riffs and more reflective passages. The lyrics of some pieces are take from XIII Century Italian poems adapted by the band. Well, this kind of operation could conceal a lack of creativity, however in some cases it works very well.



The opener “Bambina regina” (Baby Queen) begins softly but after a while the rhythm takes off like a Zeppelin and hard electric guitar riffs come in... “Black grace of rebellion / Right for your look / You live and you go away in vain / Without mercy...”. The suggestive “Rosa” (Rose) is calmer and features a good duet with male and female vocals. The lyrics are taken from a poem by Cielo d'Alcamo, one of the main exponents of the Italian medieval jester poetry. It’s followed by “Diana”, a good track about a mysterious woman on the run... “The echo of a last jump / Go! Don’t turn back...”.

Next comes the hard, cynical “Monsieur Verdoux” (inspired by a film directed by Charlie Chaplin in 1947 about the story of  an unemployed banker who becomes a serial killer... “If a single crime never pays / With nine killed wives you are a hero / Monsieur Verdoux!”. Then comes the mysterious, unquiet “Mari” (Seas). “It will not be these lightning / it will not be this abyss / Through sea, through ion / Through blood and sea / I’m coming, now I’m raging / be ready, I’m here...”.




“Libera” (Free) is a straightforward hard rock piece with lyrics freely taken from a Torquato Tasso’s poem title “Tacciono i boschi e i fiumi” (The woods and the rivers are silent). It leads to “Umbria”, a little dark gem, featuring a gothic atmosphere that recalls the atmosphere of some films by Dario Argento and the music of Goblin... “Come to this caress of mine / It will be that which you haven’t grazed / Come, feel in this kiss / All my silences...”.

“Luminosa” (Luminous) is another excellent track, It was inspired by a Guido Cavalcanti’s poem titled “Luminosa apparizione di donna” (Luminous appearance of woman) and features a particular, tasteful blending of rock, Piazzolla’s tango and Italian folklore. The following two tracks are not as good. “Metrò”, a kind of nocturnal urban delirium with a hard, oppressive atmosphere and the hard, proto-punk, “Contrasto della villanella”, with lyrics freely taken from a poem by Ciacco dell'Anguillara, in my opinion are weakest points of this album.


The sensual, dreamy “Piccolina” (Little girl) is better. It describes a voluptuous, sinful wish... “Little girl, come between my arms / There’s no one who can love you like me... My glances are sweet because your bosom is honey...”. The music of conclusive track “Terramare” brings back Led Zeppelin echoes and dark atmospheres while the lyrics are freely take from a poem by Rinaldo d'Aquino titled “Lamento per la partenzo del crociato” (Lament for the departure of the crusader). 

On the whole, a good “hard-dark-prog” album, but I don’t think it’s an essential one in a prog collection.

Arpia: Terramare (2006). Other opinions:
Christos Ampatzis: The overall quality of the tracks in Terramare is high enough to give it a good rating. Some songs fail to maintain the interest in very high levels but the rest keep the value of the whole product high enough... (read the complete review HERE)

Arpia 2009

In 2009 Arpia released their third and last album so far, “Racconto d’inverno” (Winter tale) with a line up featuring the multi instrumentalist and composer Leonardo Bonetti (vocals, acoustic guitar, bass and keyboards), Paola Feraiorni (vocals), Fabio Brait (acoustic guitar) and Aldo Orazi (drums). This album marks a change in the musical direction of the band. It was conceived as a long acoustic suite where melancholic musical landscapes are drawn by male and female vocals. The rhythm section is never invasive, acoustic guitars are omnipresent, there are not spectacular solos but the music perfectly fits the mood of the lyrics and flows away describing with notes what Leonardo Bonetti described with words. In fact, “Racconto d’inverno is not only a musical work but also a novel. They’re like two faces of the same coin. It’s very difficult to appreciate the mood and the atmosphere of this album without knowing what it’s about.

The main sources of inspiration for this opera were Stalker, a 1979 science fiction film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and “Racconto d’autunno”, a novel by the Italian writer Tommaso Landolfi (1908-1979). According to Leonardo Bonetti it was impossible for him transpose in music and words the work of Landolfi, so he decided to write his own novel to shape his feelings in a better way. The result in my opinion is very good and I enjoyed both the book and the music.


 
The plot is set somewhere in the mountains of Northern Italy, not far from a border, during the period 1943-1945. After the Italian army disbanded, Northern Italy was poisoned by the conflicts between Nazi-fascists and bands of partisans... “Crime and Pride / Our lady the Black Death is marching without pain...”. Desperation, death and hunger are the background for this work that tells the story of a desperate man who is running away from this gloomy country and looks for an escape. The fugitive arrives in a tumbling down villa built upon the ruins of an ancient abbey, a kind of labyrinth haunted by a strange presence... A man tries to help him to cross the border but they are trapped in winter weather and have to come back to the villa. Here dreams and reality melt while hope and love come out under the shadows of an impending death.

The titles of the tracks are just like the titles of the chapters of a book. The tracks are not separate entities but movements of a long suite while the lyrics recall the story narrated by the book evoking images and feelings. The contrast between male and female vocals is the strength of a bold and complex album with a particular “unplugged” rock sound. On the whole, an excellent album!


Arpia: Racconto d’inverno (2009). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: With my highest compliments to the band members, "Racconto D'inverno" will make my yearly list of best Italian albums, and perhaps flirt with my overall best of 2009 list at ProgArchives. The folks at Musea were wise to latch onto this band. Enthusiastically recommended to fans of Italian progressive and sophisticated pop-rock music... (read the complete review HERE).
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: With “Racconto D’Inverno”, Arpia have finally joined the growing number of iconic modern Italian prog bands. This is an album that will appeal to all lovers of music relying on simplicity and purity, rather than technical flash, to convey its message... (read the complete review HERE).

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