Saturday, 28 February 2015

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

Pollution is Franco Battiato's second album and was released in 1973 on the independent label Bla Bla Records. During the recording sessions Franco Battiato took charge of vocals and synthesizers and the line up was completed by Gianni Mocchetti (bass, vocals), Gianfranco D'Adda (drums, percussion), Roberto Cacciapaglia (synthesizer, piano) and Mario "Ellepi" Dalla Stella (guitars, vocals). This album, as its predecessor Fetus, features a provocative art work by Italian graphic artist and cultural agitateur Gianni Sassi. The inner sleeve contains a picture of the band with Gianni Sassi and his wife and the mysterious copy of a manifesto of an imaginary agency, the International Centre of Magnetic Studies, announcing an experiment that would have switched off for twenty-four hours all the internal combustion engines circulating in Italy...

art cover

As you can guess the content of the music and lyrics involves environmental issues and a poignant criticism against the industrialized world. Anyway, despite the subject matter, this is probably the most easy and accessible album of Franco Battiato's "prog period". Here all the tracks are bound together and form a long suite with recurring themes holding it together. The opener "Il silenzio del rumore" (The silence of the noise) begins by the echoes of a Viennese waltz by Strauss, then comes Battiato's recitative voice that in some way tries to wake you up from a sleepy, passive life-style characterized by addiction to noise and where people don't think with their own head and can't perceive the importance of being free and independent... "Have you ever been wondering / What is your function?". A "percussive" rhythm guitar and a church organ follow and lead to the sonic explosion of "31 dicembre 1999 - ore 9", just a few seconds of musique concrete. In the aftermath the sound of keyboards introduces the theme of the following "Areknames", that goes on with strange vocals and "experimental" lyrics written in "reverse style" (for example Areknames = Se mancherà). 


It leads to "Beta", where you can listen to sound effects and recitative vocals that conjure up a "mystical mood" while the piano plays some notes of the previous theme. The lyrics are based upon the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. In the novel, from birth, people are genetically designed to fit into one of five castes, which are further split into 'Plus' and 'Minus' members and designed to fulfil predetermined positions within the social and economic strata of the World State. Fetuses chosen to become members of the highest castes, 'Alpha' and 'Beta', are allowed to develop naturally and are given stimulants while maturing to term in 'decanting bottles'. Fetuses chosen to become members of the lower castes of 'Gamma', 'Delta' or 'Epsilon' are subjected to in situ chemical interference to cause arrested development in intelligence and physical growth. Here we can listen for a moment to the voice of a happy Beta, interpreted by Franco Battiato with poignant irony. A short orchestral passage taken from a symphonic poem by Smetana ends the first side of the original Lp while a question arises... "Inside of me some micro organisms live my identical life without knowing that they belong to my body / I, what body do I belong to ?".

inner sleeve

The second side of the original album is divided into three tracks. The first is the dark, surreal "Plancton" that describes in music a words a kind of evolution in reverse, a regression from the human form to the shape of a strange sea creature. Hands become scales, hair become algae... Then a weird "space tarantella" passage leads on a solitary beach where you can hear the sound of the waves... Here you can listen to a nice, dreamy melody and to a strummed acoustic guitar, then soaring vocals evoke formulas used in physics and engineering, fluids dynamics and hydrometry... In fact, on the next track, "Pollution", the music and lyrics conjure up magnetic fields and expanding gas in a world formed by atoms and molecules that follow the rules of physics. The melancholic instrumental "Ti sei mai chiesto che funzione hai?" (Have you ever been wondering what is your function?) ends the album mixing regretful laments and whining with echoes of classical music. It seems to forecast a gloomy fate for a human race victim of his knowledge and technology...


Franco Battiato: Pollution (1973). Other opinions:
Michael Berry: A step forward here? oh yes.. take an afternoon and listen to his albums chronologically. Fetus was mainly a showcase and a first draft if you will for Battiato and his minimalist aspirations for composition and instrumentation. His VCS3 was the 'star' of the album... other instruments were mainly for texture other than the violin of Cariocinesi. Here, both compositionally and of curse in instrumentation Battiato has stepped forward... A wonderful album with some POWERFUL moments and I find the contrast this album represents fascinating. Highly recommended and may be the best place for new fans of Battiato to start... (read the complete review HERE)
Jim Russell: This is pure RPI (in spirit, if not in peer conformity) with all of the experimental flair so common in the genre, influenced by spacey English psych and Krautrock I would guess. Battiato's first three albums are all very high quality but different enough to make each essential listening for RPI fans in search of a deep collection. He is certainly more eccentric and weird than the symphonic giants like Orme, so if you are an RPI noob, be warned he may take some getting used to. But if you like outlandish sounds and trippy aural festivities, Battiato will not disappoint you... (read the complete review HERE)