Tuesday, 17 February 2015

A BLACK AND WHITE STATION

Il Viaggio (The journey) is the third album by Murple, a Roman band whose roots date back to the seventies. It was released in 2014 on the independent label AMS/Btf with a renewed line up featuring historic members Pier Carlo Zanco (piano, keyboards, vocals), Duilio Sorrenti (drums, percussion) and Mario Garbarino (bass) along with the new recruits Mauro Arnò (guitars) and Claudia D'Ottavi (vocals). After a long hiatus, the band came back to life in 2007 and in 2008 released a long awaited second album, Quadri di un'esposizione, followed by a good live activity. In my opinion this new work is better than the previous one, here the mix between vintage and modern sounds is more calibrated and all the new compositions are convincing and well performed. Forty years have passed since the wonderful 1974 debut album Io Sono Murple, but the band is still alive and kicking and the new members are able to give new energy to the overall sound with excellent results.


The opener "Il viaggio" (The journey) begins by a short acoustic guitar intro. The guitar is played with a bottleneck and this is rather unusual for an Italian prog album... Then the other instruments come in and conjure up the black and white images of an old railway station. The lyrics compare life to a metaphorical journey where everyone has a train to take. There are so many rails, stations, connections, the other passengers are ever changing, someone gets out while others come in... No one can know where his journey will end but one day you will hear your train slackening and you'll arrive in a black and white station lost in the mist, from where you won't set off any more...

Next comes the beautiful, mysterious "Alejandra". The title seems to refer to a charming woman of Hispanic ancestry while the music blends dark keyboards passages with more solar parts where electric guitar and synthesizer bring a touch of joyful lightness evoking the suggestive evolutions of a dance under the full moon.


According to the band, the following "Nani e clown" (Dwarfs and clown) was composed in 1973 and performed live at the Be-In festival in Naples. Starting from an old tape, the band re-arranged and properly recorded it in the studio breathing a new life into this piece that describes in music and words an acrobat who walks on a tightrope during a circus show. Dwarfs and clowns are his only family and he enjoys the spotlight when he puts his life at stake for the delight of the public... The music goes through many changes in mood and rhythm underlying the acrobat's feelings and the emotions of the crowd gathered below him... Excellent!

Next comes the calm, dreamy "Angelika", an instrumental track that could make you think of a wonderful woman in the ethereal, breathtaking atmosphere of a Nordic landscape. It leads to the melancholic "Per una volta" (For once) where the music and lyrics depict a proud, vain man without ideals who is wasting his days looking for something that does not exist... The charming voice of Claudia D'Ottavi warns him to change and to break down the wall that he has built around him before it's too late.

Murple on stage 2012

Then it's the turn of "La battaglia" (The battle), a sumptuous instrumental track with baroque echoes and a lively pace that conjures up the image of an army on its way to the battlefield... Then the ironic "Sirene" (Sirens) ends the album. A beautiful voice warns you that nowadays sirens are not half-women and half-fish as in the old lores and legends but they can still threaten and kill evil men with their spells. They were born from a beautiful woman in love, cheated by her husband who pushed her from a high cliff. Instead of dying into the sea, the woman was transformed into a siren... Now her spawn look like every other woman but they're hungry of vengeance: beware! If you listen to their singing you'll die!

On the whole, this is a very nice album that's really worth listening to (despite the dangers evoked by the final song!). The art cover by Cesare Pietroiusti portrays the shapes of three men, three ghosts coming from afar but still able to give us some excellent music. I really hope that this will not be the last leg of their journey and I'm looking forward to Murple's next work.

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