Friday, 14 September 2012


NotaBene were formed in Brescia in 2003 on the initiative of Gustavo Pasini (drums, percussion, vocals) and Gianluca Avanzati (bass), both former members of a band called Lithos. After a first eponymous album in 2005 and some line-up changes, in 2007 NotaBene released their best work so far, “Sei lacrime d’ambra” (Six tears of amber), on the independent label Mellow Records. On this album the line-up features, along with Gustavo Pasini and Gianluca Avanzati, Andrea Alberici (vocals), Giampietro Maccabiani (guitars, mandolin) and Daniele Manerba (keyboards, vocals).  

NotaBene’s sources of inspiration range from classical to jazz, from the prog masters of the seventies to Italian melody and “canzone d’autore” but the band managed to shape an original sound blending new ideas and reminiscences from the past. The result is quite good and in this work the music steadily flows away without weak moments conveying feelings and emotions.

The opener “La révolution bourgeoise (parte I)” starts by bringing echoes from the seventies... You can hear breaking news reporting the murder of the Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini. It happened one night in Rome in November 1975, during the “years of lead” when every day shootings in the streets, riots and harsh slogans used to poison Italy. The music and lyrics try to drive you back in time. What’s the legacy of those days of ideological fighting? Disillusion reigns now... “We are slaves of an illusion and of our lapses of memory / We’ve lost the last train trying to find a faith in which nobody believes anymore...”.

Next comes the long, complex “Le mistificazioni dell’ombra” (The mystifications of shadows) that starts by depicting the bleak reality of a loser who lives in the shadows and dislikes other people. Then the light of hope turns on... “There’s no need to live in the dark / Stop resenting, it’s dawn now / It’s a sunny day, if you want it...”. Let truth lead your actions... “Ego veritas, tuarum actionum dux sum!”. The instrumental coda is excellent.

“Maschera di cera” (Mask of wax) is an introspective track about the need to hide from other people because being sincere is not convenient. Sometimes we have to put on a mask of wax to protect our fragility, it’s easy to get lost in this life where there are so many nuances... “Mask of wax, drip down from the face! / I can see a new look that I don’t know / Perhaps it’s just a natural changing / A mutation that I cannot accept...”.

The title track “Sei lacrime d’ambra” (Six tears of amber) is bittersweet and dreamy. It features clear classical influences and many changes in mood and atmosphere. The lyrics depict the disappointment for a reality that exploits people and then throws them away, worn out. The wish to leave is strong and you look at the sky. Suddenly a mysterious shadow comes down inviting you to fly away taking with you nothing but your dearest dreams... “Souls here can happily fly / No condemnations or judgements for what you are / Freedom to express yourself at your best / Respect and passion for everything...”.

“Il treno di Obuda” (The train to Obuda) is a beautiful suite in five parts. It’s a tribute to Sziget Festival, one of the most important music and cultural festivals in Europe that is held every year in August in Hungary, on an island on the Danube, Obuda, close to Budapest. The suite tells of a boy who sets off with his backpack and goes to Obuda by train carrying with him his dreams and leaving behind tiredness and troubles. The journey leads to the magic of the island... “It seems a theatre without walls / A big stage made of living dreams...”.

The  last track is the second part of “La révolution bourgeoise (parte II)”. It’s a long, complex suite in four parts dealing with the generation gap. What’s left of the ideological struggles of the seventies? Well, after so many years spent running after illusions and dreams you realize that youth is gone and that the sleep of reason generates monsters... “I believed I had jumped into the future / But eventually it was just the usual illusion / Now I look back and I laugh a little / They have persuaded me that reality is different...”. Finally the truth hits hard and takes you back to your roots, you look in the mirror and what you see is not a boy but a man... “In the mirror I can’t see my face / It’s my father’s face... And then I can hear the cry of a baby / He wants me, yes, I’m his daddy / I know that this is the whole story / The beginning is the end...”.

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